AB de Villiers, the darling of the South African limited-overs side, will not be playing in the first three ODIs against India after hurting his finger in the last Test at the Wanderers last week.
De Villiers hurt his right index finger while fielding in the slips and is out for up to two weeks, opening the way for hometown boy Khaya Zondo to make his international debut in the first ODI in Durban on Thursday.
The 27-year-old toured India in 2015 without getting a game.
Zondo would likely bat at No 6, while another option would be to bring in young Aiden Markram, but he would bat in the top-order, which would require captain Faf du Plessis to drop down to No 4.
“Obviously just plying my trade with the Dolphins, I had to be patient and wait for my chance. So I’m all smiles and now I just wait for a game. It would obviously mean a lot to make my debut in front of the support of Kingsmead,” Zondo said.
For coach Ottis Gibson, De Villiers’ absence provides the opportunity to introduce another player to one-day international cricket before the World Cup.
“This squad was named for the first three ODIs but there might be an opportunity to give other players a chance. India have a very good ODI team and they play more of them than us, although we are still ranked No 1, but that doesn’t mean a lot leading into the World Cup,” he said.
“Our emphasis is on the World Cup and exposing a few more players in the next six to eight months. The fans want to see the best team and we want to play winning cricket, but also expose some other players. It’s a fine line but we won’t devalue our game in any way. It’s just our vision on how we progress before the World Cup and we’d rather lose this series than the World Cup.”
The De Villiers blow will put more pressure on the experienced batsmen, but JP Duminy, who could take over the No 4 position, says it is a challenge he’s looking forward to.
“It’s going to be a highly-competitive series, I think it will be very close. The pitches will probably be more batting-friendly, with high scores around the country. We need to work out how best to get to 300+, because these days 300 is not good enough and 350 does not guarantee you victory. So we’ll definitely bring an aggressive approach,” Duminy said.