The South African squad will arrive in dribs and drabs in the Caribbean over the coming days with players flying in from India where several have been engaged in the IPL.
That includes skipper AB de Villiers, who will only join up with the group next week after the IPL final.The two months coach Russell Domingo has had away from the game have provided perspective and he is looking forward to a busy year.
“We know we have to up our game in the Test format and in a way it’s nice to be back in the pack and chasing a side that’s No 1,” said Domingo.
“My 11 year old son reckons it’s a good thing that we’ve dropped down (the rankings) because it takes the pressure away of trying to hold onto that position.
”We are playing sides that are above us this season - New Zealand and Australia - which provides us with an opportunity to get up the rankings. It’s a very exciting time. It’s an exciting time for the new captain, for me and for some players who have a point to prove.
“Although it’s disappointing to have dropped down the rankings, it’s also a blessing in disguise, because we can reassess and get back to where we need to be.”
Their first Test assignment will be in August when New Zealand tour here for two Tests, but the triangular series that starts in Guyana next week provides the chance to set the wheels in motion ahead of a year in which they tour Australia, host Sri Lanka and then tour New Zealand in February.
Domingo wants to make an impression against Australia, who South Africa face in three Tests later this year, but he was also keen to talk up the chances of the West Indies despite that side leaving a number of their most experienced players out of the squad.
”The West Indies have won three more World Cups than we’ve won and they’ve won it in one year. Their cricket is riding the crest of a wave at the moment, they must be very confident and pleased with their programmes,” said Domingo.
”They are a proud cricket nation. They have guys who can single-handedly win games… they didn’t play the best game in the T20 final, but they have a guy who can hit four sixes in four balls. So when you have players who have the potential and ability then they are always going to be a dangerous side.”
With the exception of Dale Steyn - absent because the SA selectors somewhat bizarrely chose to rest him despite Steyn having played very little cricket in the last six months - it’s a very strong squad that will pit wits and skills against the Australians and West Indies.
The return of Wayne Parnell was according to Domingo, just reward for his efforts after he’d returned to domestic cricket. South Africa will play a warm-up match in Port-of-Spain in Trinidad on Sunday.
They play the opening match of the tournament next Friday in Guyana. All the matches are day/night affairs - a first for international cricket in the Caribbean - starting at 7pm South Africa time.
Friday, June 3 West Indies v South Africa; Guyana National Stadium, Guyana
Sunday, June 5 West Indies v Australia; Guyana National Stadium
Tuesday, June 7 Australia v South Africa; Guyana National Stadium
Saturday, June 11 South Africa v Australia; Warner Park, St Kitts
Monday, June 13 West Indies v;s Australia; Warner Park
Wednesday, June 15 West Indies v;s South Africa; Warner Park
Sunday, June 19 Australia v;s South Africa; Kensington Oval, Barbados
Tuesday, June 21 West Indies v;s Australia; Kensington Oval
Friday, June 24 West Indies v;s South Africa; Kensington Oval
Sunday, June 26 The Final; Kensington Oval
AB de Villiers (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Tabraiz Shamsi
The StarThe initial phase of a new era for the Proteas starts in Guyana, where the West Indies and Australia will test a side who have drawn a line under a disastrous 2015/16 season.
Original source: Proteas' new era begins in the West Indies