De Villiers does not consider any team to be the favourite in this series
South Africa wicketkeeper batsman AB de Villiers has warned his team-mates that even though they are 1-0 up in the two-Test series, they should not take New Zealand lightly, especially after they were able to fight back and end their recent Test series against Sri Lanka as a 1-1 draw.
De Villiers noted that South Africa should continue playing with the same heart and passion shown during the final Test against Australia at Perth and added that there will be more pressure on them this time as well since the team are playing in front of their home fans.
“We have to play as well as we played in Australia to showcase the fact that we are No.1 in the world in Test cricket,” de Villiers said. “And we also want to do well at home.”
After replacing England as the top Test team in international cricket, South Africa had a turbulent first two Tests against Australia, where many cricket pundits believed that the baggy greens had taken the psychological advantage, but the Proteas, out to prove that they truly belonged atop the rankings, struck back with a vengeance and crushed Australia during the final Test to win the three-Test series 1-0 and retain their spot atop the rankings.
De Villiers mentioned that being labelled the favourites does not always necessarily ensure a win, and instead, he stated that winning comes from an all-round team performance.
“We understand that we are the favourites and we should win if we play good cricket,” de Villiers said. “We’ve got the mental advantage but we still have to play well. They are one of those teams that when they get it right, they are hard to beat.”
Even though the Test series is highly likely to be won by South Africa, de Villiers pointed out that the Proteas would face more of a challenge when squaring off against New Zealand in the upcoming ODI series.
“New Zealand are a very busy team and they have a very good fielding unit so that’s what makes them good in the ODIs,” he said. “They’ve had a few upsets to their Test team so they are still finding their feet but they are more dangerous in ODIs. They’ve got a few big hitters, they run well between the wickets and they’ve got good skill with the bowlers.”
The “upsets” that de Villiers is referring to is the ongoing situation involving former New Zealand captain Ross Taylor’s withdrawal from the national team due to a row with New Zealand Cricket (NZC) and head coach Mike Hesson over the issue of having a split-captaincy role inplemented.
At the conclusion of the row, Taylor had stepped down as captain and batsman Brendon McCullum was handed the reigns for all three teams.
Many South African players sympathise with Taylor, with batsman Hashim Amla tweeting that he felt for the former captain, while de Villiers noted it would be good to see him “come back to cricket soon”.
New Zealand are also without veteran all-rounder Daniel Vettori since he failed to fully recover from an injury sustained during the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 and de Villiers feels that the blackcaps will miss his presence the most.
“Dan is one of the biggest threats in their team so not having him is a big blow,” he said.