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De Villiers calls for better fielding

While other teams are still working on combinations and game plans ahead of the World Cup, AB de Villiers stressed the importance of "out-of-this-world fielding," as South Africa put the finishing touches on their World Cup preparation

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
13-Oct-2014
Airborne: Faf du Plessis dives in the field, South Africa v New Zealand, 2nd ODI, Kimberley, January 22, 2013

AB de Villiers - "I don't believe we are in the top two fielding teams in the world and you need that at a World Cup,"  •  Gallo Images

AB de Villiers stopped just short of labelling his ODI side favourites ahead of their tour to New Zealand and Australia, but underlined that position when he emphasised the area the team needed to concentrate most on over the next six weeks.
While other teams are still working on combinations and game plans ahead of the World Cup, de Villiers stressed the importance of "out-of-this-world fielding," as South Africa put the finishing touches on their World Cup preparation.
"The most important thing is to get a bit of confidence over there against two teams I see as a threat in the World Cup. Mentally and physically, it will be a really good way for us to get on top of them before the World Cup starts," de Villiers said, turning specifically to what is considered the big clash against Australia. "We can definitely win the series. We have got a bit of an edge over them."
South Africa beat Australia in the final of a triangular tournament in Zimbabwe last month, which was seen as a major stride towards World Cup success. "We played better cricket in Zimbabwe and that's why we beat them. We know there's no need to stand back for them," de Villiers said.
But it was also in Zimbabwe that de Villiers saw an area which needs improvement and, surprisingly, that is in the field.
"We had a few meetings in Zimbabwe about fielding and we talked about it at length. It's not about the basics - it's about turning games around and doing special stuff that I see other teams do," de Villiers said. "I don't believe we are in the top two fielding teams in the world and you need that at a World Cup."
That South Africa are already thinking about one of the more intricate aspects of performance, such as fielding, is an indicator they are comfortable with their ability to beat most opposition in the fifty-over format. They will use the eight matches over the next few weeks to confirm they can do it in the same conditions the World Cup will be played in. and to ensure that anyone who is unfamiliar with Australasian will have some adjustment time.
Some of the players who have not significant game time in Australia, but are expected to have a role to play at the World Cup include Ryan McLaren, David Miller and Wayne Parnell. Neither McLaren nor Miller have ever played an ODI in either Australia or New Zealand, and they are expected to have recovered from an arm and groin injuries to change that record on this trip.
Parnell is nursing a shoulder niggle and will be assessed over the New Zealand leg of the trip to determine his availability, but management is hopeful he will play some part in the series.
As far as the opposition go, de Villiers believes his men know what to expect and wants to see them react to it in the best way possible, given their impressive records in those countries.
In New Zealand, South Africa have won seven out of 18 matches played there in the past, and lost nine, but took the series on their most recent outing there in, 2012. "I don't think New Zealand are a bits-and-pieces team anymore. They are too competitive and too good a team to be labelled as that. We know the kind of threats they bring to the party."
In Australia, South Africa hold a better record, having won 16 and lost 14 of the 31 matches they've played. Still, they expect that challenge to be fierce, fuelled by the recent history between the two teams, and keeping the animated supporters in mind.
"They [Australia] are very hungry, especially against us after we beat them in Zimbabwe. They will want to give us a bit of a pay back," de Villiers said. "That will be a great challenge and so will the home crowds. We are a bit inexperienced when it comes to big crowds. They get quite involved so it will be good to be tested against that."
While all that goes on, South Africa's franchise cricketers will be trying to shift attention their way in the domestic one-day competition, and de Villiers assured that stand-out performances will not be ignored. "We're still not 100% sure of who is going to that World Cup. There is time left for one or two guys to put their hands up," he said.
"I can't see five to seven changes to the current squad, but there is certainly a spot or two up for grabs. There is always an opportunity to put your hand up and show what you are made of."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent