South Africa’s national selectors will be meeting at the Wanderers on Thursday with all their finest plans for the limited-overs series against Australia thrown into disarray by the shock news that new captain AB de Villiers has fractured a finger on his left hand.
So Andrew Hudson, Gary Kirsten, Corrie van Zyl, Vincent Barnes and Shafiek Abrahams not only have to quickly find another new captain for the two T20 internationals and three ODIs against Australia, but also a wicketkeeper.
While Hashim Amla is the designated vice-captain, there is a school of thought that Graeme Smith should return to lead the team in such a tough series against our arch-rivals.
Whether many of the South African public have forgiven Smith for his jaywalking escapade to Ireland after the World Cup disappointment remains to be seen and the imposing left-hander has also had a cursed run of broken fingers and hands and knee injuries, as well as just two half-centuries in 23 innings in the last 18 months.
While all the other batsmen are shaking off the pre-season rust in either the Champions League or SuperSport Series, Smith is not, as he is recovering from a knee operation.
But South Africa’s most successful captain has been assiduous in his preparation for the new season and his absence, plus that of De Villiers, could leave the batting exposed.
Counting against Amla is his total lack of experience of captaincy at international level, as well as his reluctance to lead. National selection convenor Andrew Hudson told SuperSport.com on Wednesday that it is not a simple matter of the vice-captain stepping up.
“We need to talk about the captaincy. It was understood when Hashim agreed to take on the vice-captaincy that he still wants to be a lower-profile member of the team. It depends on what Gary Kirsten wants too … there are a number of factors to consider,” Hudson said.
TEAM BALANCE THROWN OUT
The absence of De Villiers also throws out the balance of the team as his dual role of wicketkeeper allowed the side to play an extra batsman or bowler.
The gloves seem destined to go to one of Mark Boucher, Heino Kuhn or Morne van Wyk.
Kuhn had a fine winter with the South Africa A side, but has never played in an ODI and the selectors might not want to be too quick to discard the more experienced Boucher or Van Wyk for such a crunch series.
While Van Wyk was a gutsy performer at the World Cup, he still scored only 65 runs in five innings, while Boucher will at least be coming fresh from the Champions League.
Wayne Parnell looks in fine shape and should claim the third pace bowler’s place behind Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, with Lonwabo Tsotsobe possibly also playing if South Africa choose to include just one spinner in home conditions or if Johan Botha bats at seven.
The spin conundrum will be as vexing for the selectors as the De Villiers issue. Who ranks as the incumbent spinner if South Africa do just include one in their starting XI – Imran Tahir, Robin Peterson or Johan Botha?
There are only a couple of left-handers – Mike Hussey and David Warner – queuing up to face the South Africans in the Australian squad announced earlier on Wednesday, so that may count against off-spinner Botha.
With Hudson confirming that the ODI squad will comprise 13 or 14 players, it is bound to end in tears for at least one of the spinners when the squad is eventually announced next week after all CSA’s protocols have been observed.
And that’s not even taking Roelof van der Merwe, who has been in excellent form for Somerset in the Champions League, into account.
Colin Ingram, who had just one opportunity at the World Cup and played a vital innings, should be the extra specialist batsman in the squad, while numbers 13 and 14 will be an extremely tough selection between the likes of Ryan McLaren, Albie Morkel, Botha, Peterson, Rusty Theron, Van der Merwe and Tahir.
Possible squad – Hashim Amla, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Heino Kuhn/Mark Boucher, Johan Botha/Robin Peterson/Imran Tahir, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Botha/Peterson/Tahir or two of Ryan McLaren, Albie Morkel and Rusty Theron.
Source: SuperSport – September 28, 2011 / KEN BORLAND