In World Cup year, Proteas still eyeing No 1 Test spot
Durban - With 2019 a massive year for South African cricket as the Proteas eye a first ever World Cup title, the ongoing two-match Test series against Sri Lanka does have the feeling of being somewhat of an unwanted distraction.
There was barely a spectator in the house when the first Test got underway at Kingsmead on Wednesday morning, perhaps indicative of the fact that Test cricket is far from the priority for captain Faf du Plessis and his men right now.
The quality of the opposition doesn't help either, with Sri Lanka having not won a Test since October and in all sorts of administrative trouble heading into the series.
Yet, despite all of that, Du Plessis and the rest of the Proteas brains trust have enough reason to be motivated in their efforts to secure a 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka.
It is all part of the plan to get back to No 1 in the world.
Currently second on the ICC Test rankings and 8 points behind India, South Africa can close that gap to just 4 points if they win the ongoing series 2-0.
Attention will then turn swiftly back to the World Cup, but immediately after that tournament the Proteas will gear up for a tour to India in October that will be their first participation in the ICC World Test Championship.
Victory there, however unlikely it may seem given what transpired on the tour of 2015 when the Proteas were spun into disarray as they went down 3-0 to India, could see South Africa back on top of the pile.
"For myself and the coach, we're comfortable with having our eyes on both," Du Plessis said of the challenges that come with playing in a Test series while preparing for the World Cup at the end of May.
"Yes, there are a few ODI players in the Test team, but it is important for the Test team that their focus doesn't get distracted in making sure that everything they do is geared towards us trying to get back to No 1 in Test cricket.
"You can't completely forget about the thinking and planning for the World Cup, but there is a lot to play for on the Tests stage."
Du Plessis has never lost a Test series at home while the Proteas have a 60.71% win record with him as captain.