Faf du Plessis likely to miss four-day Test
South Africa's captain is a doubtful starter after a viral infection followed a back injury and a shoulder surgery
What's the story?
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis is likely to miss out on the first four-day Test to be played between South Africa and Zimbabwe in Port Elizabeth on Boxing Day. He contracted a viral infection in the build-up to the game and as a result, is unlikely to be fit to play.
"Last week I was 80-20 for playing, probably now 60-40. My progress was really good over the last two weeks but I picked up a virus last week which has slowed me down a little bit,” du Plessis told press two days before the start of the match.
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Du Plessis was already a doubtful starter for the game following a back injury against Bangladesh this October. He had to retire hurt while batting and while his back remained a problem, the 33-year-old also underwent a surgery on his shoulder, thus missing out on the Ram Slam as well as not being named in the CSA Invitation XI that played Zimbabwe in a warm-up game.
The heart of the matter
A major concern for South Africa, especially with regards to resting Du Plessis, is the upcoming lengthy home season where they host India for 3 Tests, 6 ODIs and 3 T20s before playing Australia in four Tests. Another concern for them is also the fitness of Dale Steyn, who has not played international cricket for over a year owing to a shoulder injury.
"With Dale, in terms of the amount of overs he has bowled leading up to the first Test, it's important to assess how ready he is to bowl at full intensity which is where we want him to be," du Plessis said. "You want a Dale at 100% ready to go when he plays. If we feel that he is there, we will make a decision. If we feel he isn't quite where he needs to be from a Test-match-intensity point of view, there is still enough time to get him ready before that first Test against India."
The four-day Test against Zimbabwe, to be played as a day-night affair, starts on December 26, before the arrival of the Indian side in South Africa. The long series against India starts on January 5, before which du Plessis and Steyn face a race against time to clear all their fitness issues.
In case du Plessis has to miss out, it would be clear that the returning AB de Villiers would take up his place in the eleven since South Africa's last Test against Bangladesh in October.
However, if he does make it on to the field, the hosts would be in a selection dilemma especially considering team requirements, which make it mandatory for six players of colour to be present in the playing eleven.