South Africa have opted to rest some of their big-name bowlers for the three ODIs against Zimbabwe. Opportunity knocks now for a few young players as the preparations for the 2015 World Cup kick into high gear. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
Get ready for an influx of new faces and a few moments where passive cricket fans might wonder “who is that?” as South Africa begin their final preparations for the 2015 World Cup in Australasia. South Africa have opted to rest senior bowlers Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander for the upcoming one-day series against Zimbabwe.
Batsman Rilee Rossouw and bowlers Mthokozisi Shezi, Marchant de Lange and Kyle Abbott have all been included in the side, meaning there will be at least one new cap in the series. The decision to rest the senior players is a good one. South Africa will play just three Tests against the West Indies over the summer, but the one-day matches will come thick and fast between now and the World Cup.
From last year until the end of August, Steyn and Morkel played 39 and 38 matches across all formats for South Africa. Philander has played just 20 and his form in the one-day format has steadily improved with 10 wickets in seven games at an average of 19.50. Steyn and Morkel’s records are impressive, too, with the former taking 29 wickets @ 18.62 and the latter 30 wickets @ 25.20 in the one-day format in the same time period.
Workload management is a buzzword that is becoming increasingly popular in modern sport and it is vital for keeping players like Steyn and Morkel in check. While there is some debate over the optimal amount of overs for bowlers to send off per week, prevention is better than cure in this case. But it also provides an ideal opportunity to try out some of the younger talent waiting in the wings for so long.
Rossouw is a talented batsman who scored 362 runs at an average of 40.22 in the one-day domestic competition last year. He has been knocking on the door for quite some time. He also topped the run-scoring charts on the recently concluded Quadrangular A-Team tournament in Australia, with 337 runs at an average of 48.14. Usually an opener, it’s hard to see him displace either Hashim Amla or Quinton de Kock, unless Amla is given a rest. However, Rossouw could slot in lower down the order, if South Africa are bold enough to give him a trial. With Jacques Kallis now retired from all international cricket, Rossouw could play at number three, unless South Africa opt to stick with tried and tested Faf du Plessis in that position. Whatever is decided, South Africa are making sure that they have options.
From a bowling perspective, the inclusion of such rich untapped bowling talent effectively puts Lonwabo Tsotsobe on notice. Once the number one bowler in the world, Tsotsobe’s form has declined steadily, partly through injury and partly through lack of fitness. He failed a fitness test ahead of South Africa’s tour to Sri Lanka last year and was also rumoured to not have been in peak condition ahead of the Champions Trophy. Back then, coach Russell Domingo voiced concerns about both his fitness and his work ethic.
“I would like to state categorically and very honestly that Tsotsobe wasn’t included in the fifteen to go to Sri Lanka. I had massive concerns about his fitness, his form and possibly his work ethic at that stage. Tsotsobe was very comfortable staying behind, working at the high performance centre, and getting himself back into condition,” Domingo said in 2013.
Currently recovering from surgery, Tsotsobe will have to work hard to get back into the team, especially if the included bowlers take the opportunity that has been presented to them. Shezi, the Cape Cobras and ex Dolphins bowler, has been a consistent performer for a few years. Despite playing just four T20s for the Dolphins last year, he took nine wickets at an eye-watering average of 9.22 in those games. He also took 11 wickets at an average of 14.90 in the A-team tournament in Australia. Keeping things simple and consistent and maintaining a very good work ethic will stand him in good stead.
His coach in Australia, former South African bowling coach Vincent Barnes, said that Shezi “worked his socks off” on the tour. “He kept things very basic with skills,” Barnes added.
Shezi was bowler of the match in the domestic T20 semi-final and the final this last season and his call-up has been a long time coming.
Abbott and De Lange need no introduction: both have played for South Africa and both have proven that they deserve a place in the side. De Lange is back after a long layoff from injury and did fairly well on the A-Team tour, with 14 wickets at an average of 21.71, including a five-wicket haul. His pace is up and the injuries which so plagued him seem to have diminished. There are still a few control issues for De Lange, though, but he is young and he will learn.
Another youngster who is being given a chance to learn is Under-19 superstar Kagiso Rabada. A key component in South Africa’s Under-19 World Cup win earlier in the year, Rabada will travel with the side as a non-playing member and will simply be there to observe and learn, quite like Simon Harmer and Stiaan van Zyl were when Australia toured South Africa earlier in the year. Rabada was clocking the 140km/h mark during the tournament in the UAE earlier in the year and is a talented youngster who is being carefully managed and developed.
The one-day series also holds a milestone and possible record for another youngster, Quinton de Kock. Should he score a hundred in his next ODI outing, he will surpass the great Sir Vivian Richards as the fastest to 1,000 runs in the format. Richards reached the milestone in 22 matches and 21 innings. He is level on number of innings with Kevin Petersen and Jonathan Trott. Should De Kock manage a hundred, he’d have got to the milestone in 20 matches and 20 innings.
It is clear that South Africa has not closed the shop when it comes to opportunities in the limited overs format. Although the squad will be changed before the tri-series between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia, opportunity knocks for a few of the hard-working players who have done more than their bit on the domestic circuit.
South Africa squad for Zimbabwe ODIs: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Kyle Abbott, Quinton de Kock, Marchant de Lange, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Beuran Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Rilee Rossouw, Mthokozisi Shezi. DM
Photo: South Africa’s AB de Villiers plays a shot bowled by Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz during their final one-day international (ODI) cricket match in Benoni March 24, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko