The looming Test series against India promises to be one of the toughest and most intriguing series the Proteas have played in a long time. There are very few surprises in terms of selection with the only notable exclusion that of Quinton de Kock. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
South Africa have announced their squads for the upcoming tour to India with the only surprise being Quinton de Kock’s omission from the Test squad. De Kock was dropped for South Africa’s second Test against Bangladesh a few weeks ago and was packaged off to repent for his sins with the South African A-team. As De Kock does, he responded with three centuries (two in the one-day matches and one in the first class matches), but this was only good enough to see him return to the limited overs team.
As a result, Dane Vilas will retain his place, and the gloves, in the Test team, a move which South African selectors refer to as “consistency in selection”. Vilas hardly got game time in the series and selectors would like to give him an opportunity to show what he can do. While this is by no means the end of the road for De Kock’s Test career, it’s a curious decision considering his stellar record against India. During India’s 2013 tour of South Africa, De Kock smacked three hundreds against them. While those might have come in the limited overs format on South African soil, including a player with at least some knowledge and experience of the opposition is never a bad thing. Nevertheless, it is Vilas who will take on the keeping duties while De Kock goes back to domestic cricket and selectors ponder who will be best suited for England’s visit over the South African summer.
The Test squad also boasts with three spinners. Dane Piedt returns for the first time since having surgery last year and Imran Tahir has also earned a recall. While Tahir’s ability in the Test arena remains under scrutiny, Piedt has already shown what he is capable of. It took some time for him to get back to his best following his injury and this comes on the back of a successful stint with the South African A-team in India. Piedt nipped out 11 batsmen in the unofficial two-Test series for South Africa A against India A, and was particularly impressive with his return of five for 85 in the first match at Wayanad. It’s been a long journey for the Cape Town off-spinner following a summer of discontent after his debut. Having been forced to have surgery on his shoulder, Piedt had an unspectacular return to first-class cricket, taking one for 187 against the England Lions, three for 100 against the same foe and nought for 104 against the Knights.
“At the end of last season, I was thinking I would never play for South Africa again. I just could not land the ball where I wanted it,” he said.
Eventually, though, Piedt found his rhythm again and it was all about sticking to what he knows. As an attacking spinner with both the carom ball and the doosra in his arsenal, Piedt found success with his stock deliveries.
“It was about control, consistency and having a set plan against each batsman. But I think most wickets amongst the 190 I have taken have been with my stock delivery. I might have taken 10 with my varieties,” he said.
Piedt and Tahir join Simon Harmer to bolster South Africa’s spinning stocks and while it’s unlikely that there will be a South African bowling line-up consisting of thee frontline spinners, it would not be a surprise to see two in the starting XI, with JP Duminy offering a third, part-time option.
Nothing else has changed with the Test team, who will face a tough challenge away from home in the four Tests due to begin in November. India are undergoing a reinvention under new captain Virat Kohli, but the Proteas have a pristine away record over the last decade. They have not lost a series away from home since 2006, but have not won a series in India since 2000. On their last two visits there they lost (in 2004) and drew (in 2008). As the most success South African team since readmission, the Indian tour presents a final frontier of sorts – they have not won there since their reign of the Road Warriors began in 2006 and a series victory here will cement their place in history as one of the greatest Test teams of all time.
The limited-overs squads are very much the same group of players who have become regulars. Morné van Wyk has now been discarded as De Kock returns to both the one-day international (ODI) and Twenty20 (T20) side. Chris Morris and Marchant de Lange return to the T20 team with Khaya Zondo also earning a call-up to the T20 in place of Rilee Rossouw. Imran Tahir also regains his place in the T20 squad with Aaron Phangiso dropping out while Eddie Leie will take the second spinner role as selectors mull over selection for the looming World T20.
Test squad: Hashim Amla (capt), AB de Villiers, Temba Bavuma, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Simon Harmer, Imran Tahir, Morné Morkel, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas.
ODI squad: AB de Villiers (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morné Morkel, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn.
T20 squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Marchant de Lange, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Eddie Leie, David Miller, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, David Wiese, Khaya Zondo.
Photo: South Africa’s Quinton De Kock (2nd L) laughs at been given out to Pakistan’s Muhammad Irfan during their Cricket World Cup match in Auckland, March 7, 2015. REUTERS/Nigel Marple.