Davids still part of World T20 plans
Henry Davids still remains part of South Africa's 'operation World Twenty20' despite a string of single-figure scores and a signal that there may not be room for him. Davids was released from the squad for the second T20 against Pakistan, to play a first-class match for his franchise, Titans, which starts today, but Faf du Plessis said he is "definitely still in our plans".
Davids has not got into double figures for the national team in his last six T20 innings dating back to March this year. His three scores before that were 68, 55 and 20 but he struggled against the spin threat Pakistan and Sri Lanka posed since then.
Adding to his troubles is that Davids has been playing out of position in his last two games because of the return of Hashim Amla, who took a sabbatical from T20s for the 2012-13 season. With Amla making himself available again and Quinton de Kock in good form, Davids, who was picked because of his abilities as an opening batsman, has been forced into an unfamiliar position in the middle order, where he has fared badly.
Du Plessis expressed sympathy over Davids plight but explained that the team doesn't have too many other options "You've got to feel for Henry - to go from opening to the middle order and especially against the Pakistan attack where you're going to get a lot of spinners bowling at you, it's really tough," du Plessis said. "And it's kind of unfair on him."
But, because of the mixture of what du Plessis called "flair and stability" de Kock and Amla provide, Davids is going to have to get used to being moved around if he hopes to play in the national team. "Hopefully he will learn from this more than anything else and he will understand how to grow his game," du Plessis said. "He is the next best batsman in the set-up but he needs to make sure he can play anywhere in the team. If we have an injury in the World T20, he needs to make sure he can step into any position."
What's obvious to even the untrained eye is that Davids has technical work to do on his approach against spinners and on how to construct an innings on slower tracks, which he is unused to. Rob Walter, his franchise coach who spent several years as the fitness and fielding trainer to the South Africa team, will be tasked with helping Davids tighten up and du Plessis has no doubt he will bounce back. "He is a quality player and a fantastic striker of the ball," he said.
While Davids has been sent back to the domestic circuit for a repair job, the South African squad has moved on to Cape Town, where they will play Pakistan in a T20 on Friday and an ODI on Sunday. Sandwiched in between the two is du Plessis' wedding and he is likely to miss the first two ODIs as a result.
Du Plessis wants to end off South Africa's year in T20 cricket - they are next scheduled to play matches against Australia in March - with a dominant showing against Pakistan. Victory will see South Africa winning the two-match series 2-0 and sweep Pakistan across both in the UAE, where they won 2-0, and at home.
More importantly, it will rubber stamp du Plessis' opinion that the T20 team is moving in the right direction ahead of the World T20. "We are starting to win even the games where we are not playing our best and that's the sign of a good team," he said, referring to the match at the Wanderers which South Africa won by four runs on Duckworth-Lewis method. South Africa were pulled back after a blazing start with the bat but du Plessis said that since they managed to come out on top, it's an indication they are learning the habit of winning.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent