South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis on Monday (January 9) admitted that the absence of Ajinkya Rahane from India’s playing XI took them by surprise. Given the recent form of Rohit Sharma in white-ball cricket, Indian team management have opted for swashbuckling Sharma in the Test series opener at Newlands, Cape Town.
"We were surprised yes. We didn't think that Jasprit Bumrah and Rohit Sharma would have played. They have been in a bit of form one-day cricket wise so they're probably just running with that," du Plessis quoted while addressing the media after the emphatic 72-run win in Cape Town.
The 33-year-old Proteas skipper also revealed that picking the playing XI was also a headache for him given the nature of the pitch.
"The decision of picking a team was definitely the hardest I have been involved in. There is so much value in both scenarios. Playing seven batsmen that offer a bit more seam is a very good call," stated du Plessis.
"But I just thought, if you have Steyn, Morkel, Philander, Rabada, that's four bowlers you cannot look past. It's a positive move. Yes, Dale hasn't played a lot of cricket but the way he was bowling in the nets, and the way he bowled in the first innings, I think he was one of our best bowlers," du Plessis elaborated.
Talking about the target of 208, Faf confessed that they had planned to set a total of 350 and the hosts camp was nervous at the lunchtime.
"I was nervous. I knew that the new ball was going to be key for us and that if we could get wickets with the new ball we feel like we can get through their batting line-up," said du Plessis.
"Obviously they've got a few quality players in there but once you can put a bit of pressure on them I thought we can get through them. But definitely I was very nervous. I came here this morning hoping to get a 350 lead and bowl to them tonight, so obviously that didn't go to plan," he added.
Du Plessis was in all praise for his bowlers, saying that they hunt as a pair and did a fantastic job even without Steyn’s absence in the second innings.
"We've got fantastic seam bowlers and if there's anything in the wicket, Vernon Philander and the other two guys are amazing. And if we had Dale Steyn there today, I reckon we would have rolled them out cheaper," he said.
"If there's something in the wicket, Vernon is as good as you get around the world. What impressed me most today was he wanted to bowl overs. He didn't say after three or four overs That's enough. He wanted the ball and he wanted to make a plan, that's all you ask for from a senior players point of view," concluded du Plessis.