PROTEAS MUST MARRY CURRENT PLANS WITH FUTURE VALUE

By Jonhenry Wilson

09 May 2019, by: Jonhenry Wilson

PROTEAS MUST MARRY CURRENT PLANS WITH FUTURE VALUE

Much like marriage is to a wedding day, the Proteas must maintain perspective beyond the World Cup by plotting a future in ODI cricket minus the services of all-rounder JP Duminy, leg-spinner Imran Tahir and others.

Matrimony, indeed, extends beyond the expectation and celebration of the ceremony. Thereafter life must continue with or without those who partook in the event.

The average age of each member of South Africa’s squad for the 2019 World Cup is 30 years old. Inflated by the 40-year-old Imran Tahir and tempered by three players – fast bowler Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi and all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo – almost two decades younger, the 15-man collective will be the second oldest at the global showpiece in the United Kingdom. Only Sri Lanka will sport similarly seasoned numbers, while Afghanistan – understandably – and Pakistan will have the youngest.

Tahir and Duminy will retire from ODI cricket after the World Cup. Whether those retirements happen at the conclusion of the round-robin fixtures, semi-final or final will depend on the Proteas’ performance. While those are inevitable, fast bowler Dale Steyn, batsman Hashim Amla and captain Faf du Plessis’ exits relatively soon thereafter are probable. Amla is nursing poor form and family matters, Steyn’s battling perennial injury and du Plessis is navigating the allure of the post-Cricket South Africa T20 travels currently enjoyed by predecessor AB de Villiers.

While batsmen Quinton de Kock, David Miller and Rassie van der Dusssen, at 26, 29 and 30 years old, respectively, still have five-plus years each to contribute, others will require medium- to long-term replacements soon enough. Some candidates are more obvious than others.

The direction for the World Cup has opted for left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi turning the ball into the right-hander, rather than a left-arm finger spinner away. If no standout orthodox right-arm off-spinner emerges, Shamsi could be paired with southpaw spinner Maharaj or Fortuin. The former has been tried at ODI level, with decent success, while the latter is uncapped, but led the wicket-takers in the recent CSA T20 Challenge and was among the top bowlers in the preceding One-Day Cup.

Bavuma publicly expressed frustration at a lack of opportunity in the ODI XI recently – and is admittedly justified. Cricket South Africa’s so-called ‘Vision 2019’, ostensibly implemented to rotate players in search of the final World Cup squad, evidently overlooked Bavuma. The diminutive right-hander is often pigeonholed as a Test specialist, but a century on ODI debut against Ireland a couple of years ago and last week’s century for the Lions in the CSA T20 Challenge final against the Warriors all but insist otherwise.

Malan is arguably the most exciting prospect among South Africa’s second tier. Calculated and aggressive, he has promptly outshone older brother Pieter Malan amid a successful move from the North West and the Lions to the Cape Cobras. His success for the Cape Town Blitz in the inaugural Mzansi Super League effectively secured a T20I debut against Pakistan – and graduation to the ODI fold should follow soon enough.

Markram the captain and Hendricks the batsman would compensate for the eventual void left by du Plessis’ exit. Miller and de Kock have formally led the Proteas in interim capacities, but Markram is earmarked to add to February 2018’s five ODIs against India as captain. Whether he opens the batting or occupies a middle-order berth would ascertain Hendricks’ position. Amla was has been preferred to Hendricks for the next couple of months, but this stance won’t likely continue beyond the World Cup.

Once shoulder, ankle and hand injuries have been negotiated, Nortje is backed to succeed Steyn in the pace attack alongside Ngidi and Rabada. That doesn’t discount Sipamla, though, who was impressive in the MSL – and garnered the respect of role model de Villiers. South Africa, indeed, boasts a wealth of young fast-bowling talent – but Nortje and Sipamla are certainly the frontrunners.

Du Plessis, Amla and other veterans are not retiring yet, but with age admittedly more than just a number and next year’s T20 World Cup in Australasia to consider, current limited-overs plans and selection will soon need to be moderated with future value.

Read part 1 of our World Cup analysis series here.

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