End of the road for Faf as he is omitted from Proteas T20I World Cup squad
Thursday’s announcement of the Proteas squad for the men’s T20I World Cup officially signalled the end of an era with Faf du Plessis and Imran Tahir omitted.
There will only be one Faf playing international sport for South Africa this year, but his surname is De Klerk and he represents the Springboks in rugby.
Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s one-time captain, has been omitted from the Proteas team for the T20I World Cup in the UAE and Oman starting next month.
It will be the first major international competition for 11 years that hasn’t featured Du Plessis in Proteas colours. Given his age (37) it’s now probably official that his days as an international player are over, even though there hasn’t been an official retirement statement — yet.
Another elder statesman, Imran Tahir, was also overlooked. Although Tahir is 42, his performances in the recent The Hundred tournament in England and his continually strong outings in the Indian Premier League (IPL) had left the door ajar. But clearly the Proteas are looking to the future at a tournament where they start as rank outsiders.
Du Plessis has not played for the Proteas since February 2021 and has only been a peripheral figure since leading the team in a dismal 2019 Cricket World Cup campaign. He has instead focused on being a T20 gun for hire in various leagues around the world.
Despite his activity in the shorter version of the game, it wasn’t enough to convince convenor of selectors Victor Mpitsang and Cricket South Africa (CSA) director of cricket Graeme Smith that he warranted a place despite his experience.
“When you’re working with free agents, you have to come together with a system that works for both the team and the free agents, they’re obviously attracted to various leagues and then the squad has its own requirements on how they build towards a World Cup,” Smith told the media.
“You try and find that balance all the time and unfortunately, with Faf in particular, we struggled to find that balance that worked for both parties.
“It’s tough and disappointing to see players retire, especially ones that have been a part of our set-up for many years. But you’ve got to weigh things up and give the team the best opportunity now.
“They’ve been on their journey building new leaders within the squad. We’ve identified two captains [Dean Elgar — Tests and Temba Bavuma — ODI and T20I] to take the teams forward.
“They’ve got to build their own environments. Hopefully, we’ll start to see new leaders come to the fore and build that gravitas on world stages that we can all be proud of.
“We’re very grateful for what Faf produced over the years and his stature in South African cricket. But it’s the opportunity of a new group of players to go forward and stake their claim, and for new heroes to be made.”
The squad will be led by Bavuma, who is expected to recover from a thumb injury in time for the tournament, which starts on 17 October, and features four frontline spinners.
That was the main reason given for Tahir’s omission. Like Du Plessis, Tahir is a free agent, having retired from One-Day-International (ODI) cricket in 2019, and the rise of Tabraiz Shamsi ended his realistic chances of making it.
“Imran has had a great run and is still successful but we were very confident in the current crop of spinners we are developing; we felt that they deserved the opportunity,” Smith said.
Mpitsang added: “There has been consideration about the free agents but we also needed to make decisions based on what we felt was our best chance going into a World Cup and the guys who’ve played for the Proteas team.”
One of the surprising omissions was spinning all-rounder George Linde, whose 19 matches in all white-ball cricket for the Proteas has been impressive.
Mpitsang tried to justify Linde’s absence as a case of having enough all-rounders already — naming seam bowlers Wiaan Mulder and Dwaine Pretorius as the obstacles in Linde’s path. But this will be a tournament in the Middle East, on wickets likely to favour spin.
Bavuma told the media that his broken thumb will heal in time and he will be ready.
“I had the operation on the weekend and I’ve already started my therapy sessions,” Bavuma said. “Recovery time, I’ve been told, is approximately four weeks. If it is four weeks, that gives me ample time to get ready for the World Cup.” DM
Temba Bavuma (captain, Lions), Keshav Maharaj (Dolphins), Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper, Titans), Bjorn Fortuin (Lions), Reeza Hendricks (Lions), Heinrich Klaasen (Titans), Aiden Markram (Titans), David Miller (Dolphins), Wiaan Mulder (Lions), Lungi Ngidi (Titans), Anrich Nortje (Warriors), Dwaine Pretorius (North West Dragons), Kagiso Rabada (Lions), Tabraiz Shamsi (Titans), Rassie van der Dussen (Lions)
Travelling reserves: Andile Phehlukwayo (Dolphins), George Linde (Western Province), Lizaad Williams (Titans)