Champions Trophy 2013 June 2, 2013

De Villiers wants fitting finish for Kirsten

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Twice during the last ICC tournament in Sri Lanka, AB de Villiers evoked the most taboo word in the South Africa cricket lexicon, unprovoked. Perhaps in an attempt to redefine the word, or maybe feeling that acceptance of it would bring progress, he spoke of previous South African teams having "choked" at the pre-tournament press conference in Colombo. He was keen to impress then that the team that had arrived at the World Twenty20 had made a clear break from that past. Funnily enough, three weeks later, he was using that same word to describe South Africa's loss to Pakistan.

In London, de Villiers did not embrace the tag quite as zealously, but that hardly means South Africa are paying little heed to the mental side of their game. As in last year's English summer, when South Africa captured the Test mace, they have been working with explorer Mike Horn, who, having also worked with the India team prior to their 2011 World Cup triumph, is quickly gaining a reputation as the world's preeminent cricket whisperer.

Before they arrived in England, South Africa had spent five days in Amsterdam, where they played Netherlands in an ODI as part of their preparation. "When we arrived there, the weather was quite bad and we were very worried about the preparation we were going to get in," de Villers said. "But it actually turned out to be a great week for us. We had a nice run in with Mike Horn, a very good fitness day and basically saw the whole of Amsterdam on bicycle, rowing and on foot. It was a great experience, and we learned a lot from him."

For the first time in years, however, South Africa have arrived at a major tournament with a side that may not, on paper, be one of the tournament frontrunners. A pace attack featuring Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe looks as menacing as any in the country, but without Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis in the squad, the top order appears to lack solidity. But perhaps, free of the mental baggage of previous campaigns, the fresh faces who have replaced the old hands can provide the antidote for South Africa's big-tournament ailment.

"Graeme and Jacques will be missed experience wise," de Villiers said. "They've played for a long time. But I like to look at things in a positive way. There is a lot of energy coming in a guy like David Miller. We saw him in many games in the IPL, and he brings a lot of confidence to the team. To have an added number six or seven that can win a game from anywhere is great."

England's early-summer pitches may ply South Africa's fast bowlers with helpful wickets, but the attack once again looks light on spin, with left-armers Robin Peterson and Aaron Phangiso providing the slow-bowling options. De Villiers did not believe his side's spin bowling to be a weakness, and given Peterson's agreeable record in England, where he averages 21.71 in five matches, perhaps his faith is not misguided.

"I believe Robin is a very good spin bowler. He's been around a long time. He's actually surprised a lot of people in the last few years with the amount of wickets he's taken. He's a wicket taker for us, so that always makes him a dangerous bowler. It's just a matter of me finding the right time for the spinners to have the biggest impact on the game."

The Champions Trophy will be coach Gary Kirsten's last assignment in charge. He had scripted the side's rise to the top of the Test rankings. In addition to also having won the World Cup with India, de Villiers said he deserved nothing less than a triumphant finish with the team.

"It would be nice to give him a good farewell. He's been a great coach to us. We've learned a hell of a lot from him in the few years that he's been our coach. He's more like a mentor on the team. I find it funny calling him coach because no one calls him coach. He's almost like one of our friends and a mentor kind of guy that's really managed the team very, very well."

South Africa play Pakistan in a warm-up match at the Oval on Monday, and will begin their tournament against India on Thursday.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • M.Khan95 on June 4, 2013, 9:18 GMT

    couldnt agree with @Wessels Van Vuuren more..

  • dummy4fb on June 4, 2013, 7:01 GMT

    Not happening, stop dreaming. If yesterday's warm-up is anything to go by, Kirsten doesn't deserve 'the credit' if we miraculously win. Team looked uncoached. Horrible slow, negative batting and then suddenly a brainless throwing away of their wickets, pathetic short, wide and erratic bowling, countless no-balls and wides, drop catches, miss fields etc. etc. I don't know what they've been doing for the last few weeks, but practice it wasn't.

  • cric4world on June 4, 2013, 5:50 GMT

    @BDforever. look who is talking. after 15 years of test cricket u produce one worth mentioning allarounder and u already claiming that pakistan's bowling attack isnt good enough?i wonder how u gona talk if u get just one more good player. lol. u think the bowling attack is not good enough that restricted SA to 200 when all their batsmen got a chance to bat (mclaren came in at 9 lol) and pakistan did it without using their prime bowlers like ajmal and irfan. and when u talk abt giving practice look at the score card pakistan's best batsman was retired out, all new batsmen got a chance to bat. when u have 200 runs to play within u can only give practice to as many batsmen.b fair when u comment on cricket jealousy isnt always healthy lol. and plus lets wait till ur SHAKIB UL HASAN gets BD to some respectable position in a global tournament then u can comment about pakistan. wat u say? :) we know we have a weak batting, but since 2007 we made semis of all global cups.wat does it tell u?

  • Guduji71 on June 3, 2013, 23:28 GMT

    Pakistan did well in this practice match. They gave run to all their batsmen except Shoab Malik. Pakistani pace attack was very impressive. I think Asad Ali is a very good find he is a very clever one day bowler, he should play every match. Wahab is very fast may be fastest of all Pakisatnis, he is starting to get his rythem, the plus is that he is very intelligent lower order batsman. I would say Pakistan has the best fast bowling attack in the world. They have both left and right arm fast bowling variety, the bowlers have good pace and swing ability. We have M.Irfan who can generate bounce from any dead wicket. Gul is not even playing this tournamant. Pakitan has many options in bowling department. The worry is Pakistan's batting. They need matue skilled batsmen.

  • dummy4fb on June 3, 2013, 17:26 GMT

    too bad that the guy who was about to change every stats and give a rare taste of the trophy to RSA cricket lasted only 2 balls ...

  • SASANK360 on June 3, 2013, 17:19 GMT

    Good win by Pakistan. I feel both teams had good practice. But Pakistan's bowling as always was brilliant. SA on the other hand were not quite into this game. Probably they were assessing their fitness and other aspects. As an Indian I appreciate the bowling of Pakistan. Coming to their batting they need some mental conditioning to avoid panic and collapses. Anyway good luck Pakistan.

  • gibbs.175 on June 3, 2013, 17:00 GMT

    flop batting...leadership...... .SA should decide...To whom be used as a hitter.....Farhaan.....or Du plesis.....or at no. 3 slop should be taken by AB ...or Du plesis .....

  • ZCFOutkast on June 3, 2013, 16:56 GMT

    @gordinho and other suspicious & worrying preferences among fellow posters, Tsotsobe is South Africa's best ODI bowler. If Rory must come in for anyone, it will be for Steyn or Morkel!!

    Why was/is it always Ntini, Tsotsobe all the time. No wonder Ntini said he was never given the respect due to him, and he always felt like whenever a new seamer was brought into the side, it was to replace him even though he was by far and away our best for the majority of his career.

    Despite the fact that Tsotsobe is our most in form bowler, somehow you manage to predict his demise. What makes the other suspects immune to the same conclusions I wonder! Afterall, it's not like they have done anything notable. Like it or not, they are very much inferior to Tsotsobe in this format, and we've seen nothing that suggests that fact will change at any point in the foreseeable future.

  • dummy4fb on June 3, 2013, 16:54 GMT

    Excellent , i mean another good prospect from pak pace factory i,e this Asaad Ali ,can any tell me at what pace this lad bowl at .ckt. is all about these pacers otherwise this game is dull but when pace bowlers are at full throttle it is the best sight in ckt. ,thanks and regards .""" Cheeers from j & k""".

  • dummy4fb on June 3, 2013, 16:40 GMT

    though its just a practice match winning or loosing does not matter much in here. BUt its difficult game. in a sense you can bat as many batsmen as you have in squad and bowl as many as you have in squad. SA gave good practice to all there batsmen. i think may be 2 will not feature in 1st playing 11. peterson came at no 10 who normally comes at 8.

    though nothing should be taken seriously but good real match practice is what players get.

    I would say pakistan should have bowled in irfan and ajmal for ehsan and rehman. both ajmal and irfan have last played on 23rd may 1st odi vs ireland.

    and i dont think ehsan / rehman will feature in playing 11 unless there is any injury.

    there is already a difficult decision waiting who to choose amonth irfan/asad/wahab.