Ingram keen to bat at No.3
There are large shoes to fill and then there are boots. Colin Ingram will need feet the size of the latter if he is named in South Africa's starting XI to play Sri Lanka in the third ODI on Tuesday in Bloemfontein.
Ingram will likely slot in at No. 3, the spot previously occupied by Jacques Kallis who is being rested for the remainder of the series. Kallis played an important part in holding South Africa's batting together in the previous two matches, with scores of 72 and 37.
However, Kallis has indicated his desire to play in the 2015 World Cup and is currently being managed carefully in order to make it to the tournament. He will miss some of South Africa's future ODIs, opening a spot for players like Ingram to fill.
"I am hoping to bat at No.3. That's the feeling I get about where my role will be," Ingram told ESPNcricinfo. "That's definitely my preferred spot. I used to open as a youngster but I am most comfortable at three."
Ingram's ability to open the batting gives the selectors options at the top, which they will need as they attempt to finalise an unsettled top three. Hashim Amla will also not feature in the rest of the series as he has been given time off for paternal duties and former captain Graeme Smith is struggling for form. Alviro Petersen has also been called up, presumably to replace Amla, which leaves the No. 3 position to Ingram.
Ingram has played 12 ODIs, scored two centuries and has an average of 41.55. He last featured during the 2011 World Cup, where he played one match, against Ireland in Kolkata and scored 46. The experience was a painful one for South Africa after they crashed out in the quarter-finals in an all too familiar fashion. While most of the players were badly affected by the manner of the defeat, Ingram said he escaped any serious emotional scarring.
"It was a big disappointment especially because there was such a good vibe and belief in the squad. I'd say we left with some pages unwritten," he said. "But, I didn't play much so I got over it quite quickly. I could see it as an outsider looking in as well."
Since then, Ingram captained the Warriors franchise to the final of the 1-day cup. He was the third highest run-scorer in the competition with 505 runs at an average of 45.90. "Captaincy pushed me to a degree," Ingram said. "It was good for my game as well. I was lucky because I had a few guys in the team who had captained before and supported me." The Warriors franchise includes stalwarts like Nicky Boje, Arno Jacobs and Makhaya Ntini, who would have all helped Ingram develop his leadership.
Always a player with a solid head on his shoulders, Ingram now has the experience to back up a sustained run in the national side. Ingram's attitude to the game will sit well with team management that has stressed the need for cool heads as the series reaches a possible turning point. Victory in Bloemfontein will see South Africa win the series, defeat will put some pressure on them and how they deal with that will be vital.
Ingram expects Sri Lanka to turn up the heat as they continue improving. "They are a very proud team and their bowling unit offers a few different things," he said. "They are lacking a few seamers at the moment to back [Lasith] Malinga up but they will come back."
As much Sri Lanka grow in confidence, South Africa will have to on wariness and Ingram believes they will make the mental adjustments. A youthful squad, led by the feisty AB de Villiers, has shown creativity and innovation, which Ingram said will continue, despite the changes in team make-up.
Although South Africa will have to juggle their line-up, they have maintained a continuity of sorts in the squad by recalling players who have been part of the set up before, such as Ingram. He's worked with Gary Kirsten before, when Kirsten was a batting consultant at the Warriors franchise and also attended the 28-man national training camp held in late August, which was Kirsten's first introduction to the national team. Ingram said that experience means he knows exactly what to expect from both coach and captain. "Gary and AB will promote an open, honest environment. They set high standards and expect big things."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent