Prince's future role unclear
Ashwell Prince will open the batting in the first Test against India starting in Nagpur on Saturday, but he is not taking any bets that he will remain there in the post-Mickey Arthur era.
"It's obviously been difficult, but I've made goals at opening the batting and I'm starting to get used to it. I sat down with Corrie van Zyl and Kepler Wessels when we arrived in India. They don't know how permanent their positions are, but their feeling was that, for this series, my best place is to open.
"When Cricket South Africa decide on the long-term process, we'll see. Whoever's in charge then, they'll decide. It's not really my decision, I obviously want to play and if that means opening the batting, then I'll give it my best shot," Prince said.
A troubled series against England started all the questions, but Prince does not appear to be out of form. Most of his dismissals against England could be ascribed to fantastic deliveries in bowler-friendly conditions.
"Ashwell is a quality player although he's obviously had a rough run lately. But he was a really strong cog in our batting line-up before, he managed to get some big runs domestically, he's started this tour well and he's looked good in the nets," captain Graeme Smith said on Friday.
Opening the batting, especially in South Africa, requires mental strength above all else: calmness and clarity of thought; and Prince spoke eloquently about what the job entailed.
"It revolves around your game plan, it will be very different to how you play in the middle-order. It's very different against the new ball and you need to organise a game plan that's more suitable to it. You have to hit straighter, not try and play too square, and you need to leave a lot more. In the middle-order, the ball will be softer so you can play at a lot more deliveries.
"Conditions in India make it easier to open, but the ball is still new and it might swing. You don't expect as much bounce and seam movement here, it won't be as extreme as back home. It was a tough series against England because of the pitches and the seaming ball," Prince said.
The left-hander admitted, however, that it was an embarrasing dismissal, lamely edging Graeme Swann's second ball to slip, in the first innings of the first test against England at SuperSport Park that started the rot.
"It's always disappointing to get a few low scores in a row, but what makes it worse was that at Centurion, I had a good start in the first innings, got to 45 and then played a lazy shot as soon as the spinner came on. It was downhill from there.
"If you get an unplayable ball, then so be it, but to get out to a lazy shot once you've got in makes you want to die. When you get in, you want to make the most of it because you know tough times could be just around the corner. I can live with getting out to a good ball, but I'm really trying not to have any soft dismissals," Prince said.
Prince is a gritty, determined character and India is just the place for him to cash in and turn his recent misfortune around.