Image courtesy of: Herald Sun
Smith and Steyn will both play a crucial role in helping South Africa keep hold of their number one Test team ranking
South Africa Test captain Graeme Smith and pace demon Dale Steyn are set to make their highly-anticipated international comebacks in the Proteas’ upcoming tour of the United Arab Emirates, where they will play Pakistan, later this month.
Smith has been out of action since May as his ankle injury resurfaced while he was captaining Surrey.
In a desperate attempt to ensure it didn’t flare up again, he decided to fly home to South Africa and have it surgically repaired.
However, he admitted that he is still not 100 per cent fit, but said: “I’m feeling on track and I feel I will be there on the tour.”
Steyn recently revealed that he was fired up about his comeback and that he had been training extremely hard in anticipation for the series.
The pace bowler has been out of action since the Champions Trophy in June, where he picked up several injuries, which included a side strain, groin, glute, neck and ankle problem.
As a result of his numerous injuries, Steyn was forced to miss South Africa’s tour of Sri Lanka in July.
Meanwhile, all-rounder Jean Paul (JP) Duminy, who missed South Africa’s last Test series against Pakistan in February due to an Achilles injury, also makes his return to the longest format.
Smith and Steyn are also included in South Africa’s ODI squad, but veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis, who opted out of the Champions Trophy and tour of Sri Lanka, will not be present throughout the series.
He is expected to return for the limited overs series against India at the end of the year.
Vernon Philander has also been included in the ODI squad despite last playing 50-over cricket in January 2012.
Speaking about the decision to pick Philander, who is known for his outstanding bowling figures in Test cricket, in the ODI squad, South Africa coach Russell Domingo said: “Vern’s strengths in Test cricket are his line and length and he would have to find more variation in the one-day game. It’s not about just bowling 10 overs on off stump. I always judge a player’s skill on how they are able to learn new things. Vern has an unbelievable desire to do well.”
South Africa’s convener of selectors Andrew Hudson noted that this series would give some of the younger players in the side an opportunity to cement their places.
“This is an opportunity for new guys to put their hands up and compete for a place in the World Cup in 2015,” he said.
Smith stated that South Africa would have to get back into the groove of Test cricket since they have not played the format for nearly eight months.
“Going to conditions that are foreign, we just need to be smart in our preparation to be ready,” Smith said. “We need to make sure we get the basics right. We can’t expect to be flashy after such a long break.”
Domingo reiterated Smith’s point, saying that it was not ideal for his side to play Test cricket after such a long lay-off period, but added that the cards had been dealt and the Proteas would just have to get themselves reacquainted with the longest format as quickly as possible.
“We’ve been into Test series cold before; there’s not an awful lot you can do about it,” he said. “The players are professional and experienced enough to know what they must do to hit the ground running.
“There are some positives: fortunately we’ll be there for nine or 10 days before we hit the first of the two Tests, so that’s a bit of a plus. Included will be a three-day warm-up game, which is better than nothing at all – it’s pretty typical of the ways schedules go these days. I think eight of the 15 who go will be playing first in the Twenty20 Champions League, so that’s another good development.”