Vernon Philander says the first Sunfoil Test match against India starting at PPC Newlands on Friday will ‘set the tone’ ahead of a busy summer of cricket for the Standard Bank Proteas Test squad. The Proteas will follow the three-match Freedom Series against the No.1 ranked India with a four-match contest against Australia, which sets up one of the most challenging home season’s for the Test squad.
The all-rounder says he is relishing the prospect of making a return to his home ground after the latter part of his 2017 season was curtailed by injury.
“ I think it is a spectacular event every year to be down in Cape Town,” he said at Newlands on Wednesday. “ There are a lot of holiday-makers down here celebrating the festive season. To have a fully packed Newlands crowd, it doesn’t get better than that. Hopefully this one will be sold out, if not close to it. It will be a spectacular event, hopefully the cricket will keep the stakes up and set the tone for the rest of the summer.
“ It is a big summer ahead, there is a lot of Test match cricket to be played,” he added. “ The guys will need to top up on their rehab and fitness work that needs to be done. If we can do that most of us will stay injury free but unfortunately injuries are part of the game, some of those things you can’t account for. We have to control the things that we can and hopefully we will have a Test summer with few injuries.”
Philander has played in all but one New Year’s Test match at Newlands since his debut in 2011, only missing out against England in 2016 due to injury. He returns to a happy hunting ground, where he is bolstered by an exceptional bowling record of 38 wickets in seven matches with an impressive average of 18.
“ For me it is about being the best that I can possibly be,” he said of his goals for the season. “ I want to contribute in every way that I can, be it taking wickets, scoring runs or getting the team across the line. For me it is about fitting in with what the team needs from me on a regular basis.”
He says the squad is managing their expectations around the green-tinged pitch two days out of the match, and insists there are many factors that can play a role on how it behaves on Friday morning.
“ There is a little bit of grass,” he said of the pitch. “ Today and tomorrow will be hot so by the time the Test match starts it will be a little bit drier. The wicket changes quite quickly here, it also depends on the type of wind that blows here. By Friday morning it could be a different looking pitch.”