AB De Villiers returns to play his first home T20 International match in over a year in the opening T20 International against New Zealand in Durban on Friday. De Villiers missed the One-Day International (ODI) and Test series against Bangladesh last month and will partner with Hashim Amla at the top of the order in a move Faf Du Plessis says will be a ‘good combination’ as they ‘complement each other well.’ De Villiers last played a T20I at home against Australia in March 2014, and seems refreshed and energised after his paternity leave.
Du Plessis says: ‘It’s great to have AB back after a nice rest. From a team perspective having AB back is fantastic. He is a great leader and fantastic player, any team would be extremely happy to have him. It’s important that we stick to what we want to achieve with our combinations. Putting AB at the top is a conscious change we made leading up to the World Cup. You want to give your most explosive and best player a crack at getting in early and scoring runs, that is something we will stick with even though the conditions here will probably suggest otherwise.’ Du Plessis says it’s fantastic to be back playing in front of the home fans at the revamped Kingsmead following their 2-0 series win against Bangladesh last month.
He insists winning remains the only objective for the squad, despite the selection of a relatively inexperienced squad: ‘Leading up to the World Cup, winning games is extremely important. You want to get there with confidence and having most of your boxes ticked, especially in a short tournament like that. People may look at these games as an opportunity to give guys chances but for me it’s extremely important as we build up to the tournament.’ The captain says the nature of T20 cricket leaves small margins between respective international teams and thorough preparation has been vital for a Black Caps side brimming with big match-winners: ‘I’ve played a lot of cricket to understand that even if you play cricket against a team ranked ninth or tenth, in T20 cricket anything is possible. They are missing quite a few players but the guys that are here are high quality cricketers. With T20 cricket you don’t need as many players in your team to perform because it’s so short. If you look at players like Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson who are in great form, they are big players for them. Their bowling attack will be guys who have played international cricket; McClenaghan, Milne and Henry are their frontline seamers, so for me it’s going to be a tough test for us.’
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