With the Proteas’ international season now done and dusted, ANT SIMS boldly changes the rating system. Marks out of ten? We’ll have none of that.
Nobody in particular stood out in the recently concluded five-match ODI series against Pakistan – except AB de Villiers. So there’s no real point in rating players out of ten. Rather, we’ve asked ourselves: if we were selectors, would we take the player to the Champions Trophy in June?
Graeme Smith – yes
Graeme Smith had a torrid time in this series, particularly against the spinners, and his constant shuffling across his stumps left him vulnerable and exposed on far too many occasions. While Smith might be out of form and now also struggling with an ankle injury, his experience, especially from a captaincy perspective, is invaluable. Having Biff in a big tournament (cough, knockouts, cough) like the Champions Trophy is crucial. If he fails on that stage, then it might be time to consider moving AB de Villiers up the order to open the batting.
Hashim Amla – hell, yes
Hashim Amla is incredible. And we’re not just talking about his beard. He has been in sensational form lately, and while he struggled in the last two ODIs, there is nobody else you’d rather have opening the batting in the one-day format. A slight lack of patience seemed to be troubling the Bearded One, but that’s something he’ll almost certainly shake off. A good break away from cricket before things get serious again will do Amla wonders.
AB de Villiers – hell, yes
AB de Villiers is simply extraordinary at the moment, with the bat in hand at least. No more needs to be written about what stellar form he is in or how well he has adjusted to his three-fold role. All that’s missing is the ability to stick to over rates, since failing at that could see him suspended in the Champions Trophy. But if the series against Pakistan was anything to go by, the Proteas will be pretty lost without him.
Colin Ingram – no
Colin Ingram has the ability to play one magnificent knock followed by a host of knocks so poor you completely forget about the good one. He started off the series with a banging hundred, but failed to transfer any of that momentum into the series. He was undone by a good yorker from Mohammed Irfan in the third ODI, and most of the time he just didn’t look like an international batsman.
Faf du Plessis – only if he can bowl
Faf du Plessis has become a household name in South African cricket in the last few months, in all formats but one-day internationals. He still blows hot and cold far too much, and if the back injury which prevents him from bowling persists, it might serve South Africa well to opt for an additional extra batsman for the Champions Trophy – especially if the tracks are likely to assist the seamers (and taking into account the likely overhead conditions).
Farhaan Behardien – yes
While he has been quite forgettable in the international T20 set-up, Farhaan Behardien has adjusted well to the pace of the one-day game and is starting to carve a niche for himself as a bit of a pinch hitter. He wouldn’t walk into the starting XI if there were other options available, but he could be a handy trump card, given the chance.
Ryan McLaren – yes
Ryan McLaren has made the most of his career for somebody with limited natural ability. He’s had to work harder than most to get where he is, but boy, has he made it count. He’s earned himself the reputation of being a partnership breaker, and he’s no mug with the bat either. While eyebrows were raised over his inclusion before New Zealand, now the team would be lacking without him.
Robin Pieterson – maybe
Robin Peterson had a pretty tough ODI series. While he bowled well in spells, it was clear that he needed a back-up in the spin department to help him play his more natural, attacking game. Peterson is a valuable lower-order player, and he proved that again with his 44 off 67 when South Africa capitulated to 191 all out in the second ODI. However, he needs either a front-line spinner or a part-timer like JP Duminy to slot into the team to make the most of his role.
Rory Kleinveldt – yes
Rory Kleinveldt has flown under the radar a bit in the series, despite a stellar performance in the first match. He was hammered in Johannesburg and Durban and his consistency is as annoying as Morne Morkel’s, but Kleinveldt serves a crucial backup role in the ODI format. He needs game time and a lot of work and patience, but as a wise man once said: there is no practice like match practice.
Kyle Abbott – no
It would be grossly unfair to judge Kyle Abbott on two one-day internationals, but when it comes to picking sides for global tournaments, experience trumps the rookies, and Abbott has to get the chop.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe – yes
Possessing the ability be devastatingly effective with the new ball, Lonwabo Tsotsobe didn’t quite live up to his potential in this series. He showed glimpses of what he’s capable of in the final ODI, but he still seems nonchalant about assuming responsibility up front. South Africa needs him, though, and managing him properly will be essential.
Dale Steyn – yes
Whenever Dale Steyn plays in a one-day game, it feels like an anti-climax. He’s just not quite the menacing pace ace in colourful clothing. He does keep things tidy, though, and when Steyn is fired up, he still remains one of the most feared bowlers in the world. To ensure that he stays fit and ready to roll, rotating Steyn will be the key.
Morne Morkel – yes
Pace, bounce and swing are all things Morne Morkel loves to exploit. His nagging inconsistency still remains an issue, but the English conditions are tailor-made for him – and he’s a crucial part of the pace pack, which needs a bit of rotating.
David Miller – yes
Take a deep breath and remind yourself that David Miller is just 23 years old. While he first made his bow in the ODI side almost three years ago, he’s been another one of those players in and out of the side. His performances in the last two ODIs are cause to believe that he might have finally mustered the art of making the transition. A superb knock of 67 on his home turf as well as a composed and unbeaten 20 to help De Villiers see the side home in the final match might not be enough to judge his credentials, but it’s enough to give him a punt.
Quinton de Kock – only because a backup keeper is vital
So much hype has surrounded Quinton de Kock that disappointment was inevitable. When a supposed enigma starts circling on the scene, so much is often expected of him that nothing but back-to-back hundreds will do. One can’t help but think that De Kock’s inclusion into the nation team is starting to feel a little rushed. Prolific on the domestic circuit, sure, but ready for the international stage? Maybe not. DM
Photo: South Africa’s wicketkeeper AB de Villiers (R) celebrates with Ryan McLaren after de Villiers made a catch to dismiss Pakistan’s captain Misbah-ul-Haq during their final one-day international (ODI) cricket match in Benoni March 24, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
"Man is by nature a political animal" ~ Aristotle