De Villiers making slow progress after hand surgery
AB de Villiers, South Africa's Test wicketkeeper, has admitted he is making slow progress after his hand surgery but remains confident he will be fit for the upcoming series against Australia. De Villiers went under the knife on January 10 and was estimated to need up to a month of rehabilitation before taking the field again.
"It's still swollen because it was done not so long ago. I still need time away from the game, unfortunately," he told South African news channel eNCA. "I'm going through rehab at the moment and it's quite painful."
De Villiers required the operation to remove a plate from his hand, which had been inserted after a fracture sustained during the IPL in 2011. The plate had begun to cause discomfort and had to be surgically removed. The recovery period means de Villiers will play no part in the ongoing domestic twenty-over competition, which had been largely marketed on the availability of international players.
But with a high-profile contest against Australia ahead, de Villiers' absence from the Titans is in the national interest. De Villiers is one of the candidates who could slot into the No. 4 spot left vacant by Jacques Kallis, a role he is expected to fill only if he is unburdened of the wicketkeeping gloves.
Whether or not de Villiers moves into Kallis' place in the batting line-up, there is no doubt he will have to assume more responsibility as a senior player as South Africa attempt to beat Australia at home for the first time since readmission. De Villiers was part of the outfits who defeated Australia on South Africa's previous two tours there, in 2008-09 and in 2012, and now hopes they can repeat the same in front of their own fans.
"I'm looking forward to a massive series against Australia," he said. "They're playing really good cricket, but there's no reason for us to stand back. We beat them the last time we played, but it's been a while since we beat them in South Africa."
While the Australia players have been vocal about their chances, the South African camp has been largely silent but de Villiers hinted it won't stay that way. "I'm looking forward to a rough series against Australia. That's how it's going to be played."
The three-Test series starts on February 12 in Centurion.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent