The one-day international series against touring Australia is set to reveal where Proteas coach Rob Walter and captain Temba Bavuma’s project is, five weeks from the start of the World Cup.
The ODI series will start on September 7 following the conclusion of this week’s three-match T20I series in Durban.
Over the last few months, following the appointment of Walter as white-ball coach, the focus of the team has been on establishing an identity, a culture and a playing style.
For the first time, they put their ambitions of adopting a ‘positive’ playing style to the test at the back end of last summer when they took on the West Indies and then the Netherlands.
Although there were a number of promising signs, including the series-levelling Heinrich Klaasen masterclass in Potchefstroom against the West Indies in March and Aiden Markram’s maiden ODI century against the Dutch in early April, a few questions are still unanswered.
The most important is whether or not the Proteas have enough options and combinations. Secondly, how do youngsters Dewald Brevis and Tristan Stubbs fit into the team?
“Trying to build as quickly as possible … It’s important to note that with integration, yes, you always try to fast track that process but while allowing it to be authentic,” said former Proteas batter and now batting coach JP Duminy.
“Understanding the identity of the team and that’s certainly something we are trying to drive quite hard and then understanding the impact … Where do we all fit into this picture?
“As a coach now, the intent is still the same. You’re trying to bring guys in and allowing them to feel a sense of belonging very quickly. That’s where culture then becomes important. (Getting) guys not to conform but understand their unique identity and bring that into the team and allow them to thrive.”
With the upcoming series against Australia, the Proteas and the fans will get a good understanding of where the team is and what needs to be polished going into the World Cup. Duminy said there is excitement within the team, excitement to see all the hard work put in over the winter, in the form of camps, pay off.
“There’s a sense of excitement and a willingness to see the work that we’ve put in over the last few months come to fruition,” Duminy said.
“It’s always going to be tested under pressure. What a great opportunity that we have now leading into the World Cup to be playing against the best in the world.
“Understanding the things that we’ve spoken about and how we implement them in a game situation. I’m certainly excited, I think all of us are. It’s been close five months since we’ve played a game.
“Importantly, we don’t want to find ourselves trying to catch up in a series. We want to throw the first punch and identify with the style of play that we’re looking to achieve.
“There’s a greater picture of what we’re trying to build towards. That doesn’t take away the importance of results. What are we trying to gain as a team?
“Trying to understand our combinations, trying to understand players’ roles clearly, who fits in where, on and off the field.
“The fact that we have an opposition is important because we get to test it under pressure. Whoever that is, it’s important for us not to look at the experience in their team. It’s about trying to implement our game plans, which is ultimately what we need to do.”
South Africa play the first T20I against Australia on Wednesday at Kingsmead. The match starts at 6pm.