South Africa will make a "meaningful" anti-racism gesture when they take the field against Sri Lanka on Boxing Day, after failing to do so during the T20I series against England last month. The first Test against Sri Lanka starts on Saturday and coach Mark Boucher said the South African team would look to express its support for inclusion after its inaction in the last series, which attracted criticism from many quarters.
"We've had a lot of discussions since we've come into the bubble about this, especially after what the board statement was and the guys have come up with a meaningful gesture," Boucher said during a virtual press conference on Friday.
"That's something the players will share with everyone before match day," he added.
Cricket South Africa's (CSA) interim board had criticised the team's response to Black Lives Matter (BLM) last week but made it clear that they would not force anything on them. And Boucher was appreciative of that. "We appreciate the board isn't looking to compel the team into doing anything one way or the other, and that they are happy to allow the team to go through their process and come up with something meaningful to them.
"We are happy to engage further with them and what they would like to discuss at a more appropriate time," the former national team wicketkeeper-batsman said.
The BLM has gripped the world since the killing of African-American George Floyd's earlier this year in the US.
'Capable of beating Sri Lanka'
"We’re in a rebuilding phase and we’ve got some youngsters around but we’re playing in conditions that suit us better than the opposition," said Boucher on Friday.
"If we hit our straps and execute the plans we’ve put in place I think we’ll give ourselves a very good chance to win against them."
Sri Lanka have won their most recent four Tests against South Africa, including a shock 2-0 series win on their tour two seasons ago. "I didn’t watch a lot of it," Boucher said of the 2018/19 series, "but it’s something we can channel to our advantage. We can’t just coast into this as a team."
South Africa have a strong record at Centurion, which includes wins in all four previous Tests against Sri Lanka at the venue. Boucher said there were "a couple of niggles" involving fast bowlers Lungi Ngidi and Glenton Stuurman that would delay the final selection of a playing eleven. Both came through intensive training on Thursday without any apparent problems but Boucher said they would need to be assessed after a night’s rest.
Sri Lanka also have an injury concern, with Suranga Lakmal nursing a hamstring strain. Lakmal was described by coach Mickey Arthur earlier in the week as "the leader of our attack".
Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne told journalists on Thursday that he believed his team could match South Africa in the quality of their pace bowling. "If you look at pace, we’re about equal," he said.
"I think the batsmen will be the difference. Whoever has the better batting side has a good chance of winning the series."
Both teams are staying at a country club near Pretoria within easy driving distance of the Test venues in Centurion and Johannesburg. With a surge in Covid-19 infections in South Africa, both Tests will be played without spectators.
(With inputs from AFP)