Hashim Amla’s bid to make the Proteas starting line-up for the World Cup opening match against England is likely to be decided by the two warm-up matches against Sri Lanka and the West Indies this week.
SA start the tournament against England at the Oval on May 30 and will fine-tune preparations against Sri Lanka in Cardiff on Friday and West Indies in Bristol on Sunday.
Amla has struggled for runs over the past few months and captain Faf du Plessis said the long-time top-order batting mainstay must earn his place in the team like all the players.
“He has not scored enough runs that he would have liked recently, but he is also an experienced campaigner and that’s why he withdrew himself from the domestic T20 competition because that was not the sort of preparation he wanted‚” he said.
“He’s been working extremely hard with batting coach Dale Benkenstein‚ hitting a lot of balls and getting in the right frame of mind he needs to be in.
“For all of us‚ it is about understanding where you are mentally.
“I reference myself and some of the players who played in the Indian Premier League (IPL), which was a long tournament. For me the key was to get myself fresh again after the IPL and get the tank nice and full.
“For me‚ I didn’t train as hard as I can for the last three days because there is still some time before the first game in England and I have played enough cricket to understand that.”
Du Plessis added that Amla remains an important member of the squad due to his vast experience at international tournaments and his familiarity with English conditions.
“He is an experienced player who is important to our squad, and that is one of the key reasons he was picked. You cannot substitute experience.
“He has been to tournaments‚ he understands what it is like to play on that stage, which is important to have.
“He is calm‚ composed, and even if he doesn’t play a game, the knowledge and the experience that he will share with a player like Aiden Markram is going to be massive.
“He will talk him through processes of how to get through those first 10 overs in English conditions because he has played a lot of county cricket there. His experience is vital for us as a group.”