Cricket: Five questions after a summer of clean sweeps
South Africa wrapped up its summer of Tests in spectacular fashion over the weekend. A win over Pakistan ensured a clean sweep of Tests for the season. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any lingering questions, though. By ANT SIMS.
How long does Dean Elgar still need?
A promising player on domestic level, who actually opens the batting, Dean Elgar is one of the few South African debutants who haven’t been able to simply astound everyone since entering the national set-up. Sure, he has scored a ton, but that was against a very weak New Zealand side. Elgar simply hasn’t looked comfortable at number seven. Whether that’s because the mental challenge of slotting in lower down the order than where he is accustomed to batting or whether he simply has a few technical issues, doesn’t really matter. He won’t have to worry about his spot in the side for a few months, but once JP Duminy has recovered from injury, Elgar’s time is likely to be up.
Is it time to - whisper it - rest Jacques Kallis from time to time?
If you had to mention to any South African cricket fan a year ago that Jacques Kallis might need some time off here and there, they would have accused you of blasphemy. Now, there is a very real possibility that when the Proteas take on weaker opposition, Kallis might get a rest. AB de Villiers has slotted into the role of wicket-keeping batsman quite well now, giving the Proteas the luxury of either playing an extra batsman or an extra bowler at number seven. It’s a pretty good position to be in, and with some fresh talent always waiting in the wings, the big man can rest assured that the back-up won’t let the side fall apart.
Just how good can Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander still get?
Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are astoundingly good. Considering they play on covered pitches, unlike some previous bowlers who dominated on open pitches, the two have been mind-blowing. South Africa has stretched an unbeaten run to 15 Tests, and Steyn has played in all of those – picking up 72 wickets to boot at an average of 21.76. Philander has played 13 Tests, picking up 65 wickets at 18.89. If Steyn remains injury-free and Philander can translate his new ball wizardry to some of his old spells, the pair might very well become the most feared bowlers of their generation.
Is Test cricket dying?
This question is in jest. Just to be clear. But it has to be asked just how unfair and ridiculous it is that Sri Lanka has requested postponement of the Test series that was set for the middle of the year. As it stands, South Africa won’t play cricket for another seven months, and while there are murmurs that the India series scheduled for the coming summer could be extended, having such a talented team deprived of the privilege of Test cricket is a great pity. Things might change, of course. There might be an informal or “friendly” tour scheduled with somebody who isn’t busy, but it won’t be high-quality opposition and all it will achieve is to increase South Africa’s unbeaten run. In an ideal world, the powers of the BCCI and CSA would combine and schedule an impromptu series in the subcontinent to replace the gap left by the dropping of South Africa’s scheduled Tests against Sri Lanka. There’s a gap in India’s calendar and South Africa is free, so why not?
Potential pressure, complacency and momentum – what now?
The next time South Africa plays a Test, England and Australia will have muscled through an Ashes series and the Proteas might be in a must-win situation when they travel to the United Arab Emirates. They have shown over the last year that they can transfer the pressure to the opposition, but after a lengthy layoff, the momentum would have long gone. Basking in their glory and with a fully-fit side, there is a risk of complacency to guard against. DM
Photo: Vernon Philander of South Africa (L) celebrates with Dale Steyn after Vernon bowled out Phillip Hughes of Australia during the second day of the second test in Johannesburg, November 18, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko