Unsurprisingly, South Africa opted for a tried and tested Cricket World Cup squad. There are no trump cards here, and selectors chose consistency over pragmatism ahead of the big competition. ANTOINETTE MULLER takes a closer look.
South Africa’s Cricket World Cup squad was never going to be one that got the headlines buzzing. That is not their modus operandi. They have been tentative in handing out caps and this has seen them reap rewards.
Since the start of 2013, they have played 48 ODIs, winning 26 and losing 19. Four of those games were lost in Australia recently, with a squad that was familiar and conservative. It’s no surprise, then, that there was more of the same when the 2015 Cricket World Cup squad was announced on Wednesday.
There were no surprises, no trump cards and no pragmatic selections. While consistency certainly matters, so does taking a chance in big tournaments. South Africa is not short on talent and there will be quite a few players who’ll have every right to feel a little bit irked for missing out.
South Africa still has to get through a T20 and ODI series before they pack up and head for Oceania, and they are pulling out all the stops to make sure they are prepared.
Charl Langeveldt has linked up with the team in a coaching capacity. Langeveldt has been a key mentor at the Cobras for the last few years and could be part of Cricket South Africa’s future plans. Russell Domingo’s deputies are due to be decided after the World Cup and there has been a strong suggestion that Allan Donald will not renew his contract. That leaves a massive gap in the support structures. With Vincent Barnes dedicated to his role at the High Performance Centre, there is no better man from a knowledge and experience point of view than Langeveldt.
From a death bowling perspective, South Africa has not had a better death bowler than Langeveldt. As an exponent of the yorker, Langeveldt is a tremendous addition to the backroom staff. Considering death bowling is where South Africa’s limited overs team has struggled the most, there is no better man to remedy the situation than the legendary Cobras player.
Whether a little more than a handful of limited overs is enough to whip the bowlers into shape will remain to be seen. For now, all focus will be on the guys who are en route to the World Cup, and here’s a closer look at those who made the cut.
The players who were always a certainty
AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy were never not going to make the side. Even while nursing an injury, Quinton de Kock was never going to be left out of the team. The core group of players is reliable, experienced and nobody can fault them cracking the nod.
The players who will have a point to prove
Aside from the core group, almost all of the other players will have a point to prove, for various reasons. South Africa opted to persist with the likes of Farhaan Behardien, Rilee Rossuow and David Miller.
Rossouw was earmarked to be part of the World Cup side when South Africa travelled to Zimbabwe last year, but has been unremarkable until now. It will be a battle between him and Behardien for the additional batting spot in the side, but Behardien has been equally unimpressive in national colours. Having made his ODI debut in 2013, he has not scored more than 63 in his 15 innings. Both have showed promise domestically, but simply have not been able to translate that when playing in international colours.
David Miller, too, is yet to play a convincing “finishing” role for the national team. Seven fifties in 52 innings hardly add up to fruitful returns. Some will say that is because he bats so low down the order – but his role is to smash it lower down the order, and he has not done that. With so many talented batsmen at the top of the order, Miller almost always has the luxury of a platform before he goes out to bat. In Australia, he will be under pressure to finally live up to his domestic reputation, which has earned him the nickname “Killer Miller”.
Most baffling of all selections is the decision to go for two frontline spinners on Australian pitches, with JP Duminy already in the team. Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso both cracked the nod and while both are adequate, it makes little sense to have two spinners in the team on the tracks South Africa are likely to encounter. If injury is a concern, there is enough time to call on replacements if anything happens to the main spinner. Leaving out either one would have allowed for the selection of at least one “trump card” player.
The back-up bowlers of Wayne Parnell and Kyle Abbott will also have to face the music. While Abbott is one of the leading death bowlers in the country, he has caught the disease of inconsistency when playing in national colours. Parnell, too, has been unconvincing. While his left-arm variation is a welcome addition, Parnell’s form has been under par as of late.
The players who are unlucky to have missed out
Whenever bemoaning the selection of certain players, it is important to know who would be their back-ups. Morne van Wyk, David Wiese, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, and Ryan McLaren could have all made the side. Van Wyk, who is likely to get a late call-up if Quinton de Kock does not recover from injury, had an immense time with the bat domestically last year. While he probably expected not to get called up, he does bring a wealth of experience with him.
Frustrating as Lonwabo Tsotsobe is, he also has far more experience than Parnell. Since recovering from injury last year, he has been plugging away steadily on the domestic scene. He leads the wickets tally in the domestic one-day competition, with 12 wickets at an average of 18.08 in six matches, and grabbed 14 sticks at an average of 24.42 in 11 matches in the T20 competition. Tsotsobe has had his problems with discipline, but on a good day – and when it comes to experience – Tsotsobe is a trump card.
Finally, Ryan McLaren and David Wiese are both very unlucky to have missed out. McLaren was South Africa’s best ODI bowler for a large part of 2012 to 2013. Although he is not an all-rounder, he is valuable as a bowler. If only South Africa realised his worth as a bowler only, McLaren would have cracked the nod. Wiese, meanwhile, is dependable in both disciplines and has that certain “X-Factor” about him. Wiese was given a brief run in the T20 side, but South Africa never experimented enough to establish whether he could be their trump card. Taking a risk with a player who has not been scrutinised was a bridge too far for selectors. DM
Photo: Protea players pose for photos at the official announcement of South Africa’s World Cup squad in Cape Town on Wednesday, 7 January 2015. AB de Villiers will lead a full strength Proteas squad to Australia and New Zealand in February to challenge for the 2015 edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup. Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht/SAPA