Visakhapatnam: South Africa pacer Vernon Philander is raring to go ahead of their first Test against India from October 2, and feels it is time for the senior players to step up and fight as it will be a tough challenge.
The three-match Test series will also mark the start of South Africa’s World Test Championship campaign.
South Africa drew their warm-up match against Board President’s XI after the first day’s play was washed out due to rain. They scored 279-6 in their first innings and dismissed eight players of the opposition side for 265 before play ended. Philander starred with both bat and ball, scoring a 49-ball 48 and then picking up 2-27, which included the prized wicket of Rohit Sharma.
“It’s always good to have some time out in the middle,” he said. “Fortunately for me, I came here a couple of days earlier to join the side …to get a bit of a game time. Mainly it’s just about getting a feel for the wickets. It is going to be a tough series, obviously, so the more time you spend out there in the middle, the better.”
South Africa will be playing their first Test series after the retirement of stalwarts Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn.
“The spotlight will be on a lot of big players to make a statement,” said Philander. “Our job is to come here and give the first punch as India is obviously expected to do well. We are known as a team who starts slow so this time around we have to start well. There is a lot of pressure on players (but then) it’s international cricket and you want to keep it that way.
“We are obviously prepared to do well. When we do well, it gives you that better confidence and I’ll take that confidence with me. It’s been a long winter for me and I am feeling in really good nick.”
Talking about the Test Championship, Philander said it adds a new dimension to the longest format of the game.
“The Test championship brings in a new dimension,” he said. “It is a new sort of excitement for players. Also knowing that you will be playing against top teams more often [is great].
“It’s a tough start playing India in India but I don’t think the South Africans would have wanted it any other way… (to) take the big dogs in their home ground. All of us are looking forward to this challenge and there are a lot of player-to-player challenges as well. Can’t wait to get going.”
Philander was exceptional in South Africa’s last Test series against India in 2018 and picked up 15 wickets in three Tests.
“We have lost some senior players and there are new players coming in and we want them to learn quickly. Hopefully we can use the experience of the senior players that are still around and mould this into a good Test side for the years to come. That’s the most important part, to lay a good foundation for players to take forward.”