Too often Proteas teams of the past have been too rigid and thus formulaic, particularly in the modern game. It’s vital to have some variety and be able to change tack when a situation demands it.
The squad for the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy has the kind of variety that will allow for a lot of flexibility which the Proteas hope will make them difficult to plan against. It also offers options in terms of personnel and what type of strategy to employ. Nowhere is that more clearly indicated than in the presence of all four seam bowling all-rounders - Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Dwaine Pretorius and Wayne Parnell.
As Russell Domingo said yesterday, that quartet have played at various points during a successful summer for the One-Day side and in one instance in Christchurch against New Zealand, they all played. It would be unlikely for that to occur again in England, but it’s nice to have that option.
“It depends on conditions and the opposition; against teams with a strong batting line-up we’ll probably want to play our best fast bowlers, which could bring Morné Morkel into the equation. Against sides with good bowlers or in tricky conditions, you might want to lengthen the batting order. We have three warm-up games. We will try to play every player,” Domingo explained.
The decision to include Keshav Maharaj ahead of Tabraiz Shamsi and Aaron Phangiso was, Domingo admitted, a tricky call. The margins between those three spinners are very fine; Shamsi provides attacking variety, Phangiso control and the same goes for Maharaj. What separated them, according to Domingo, was Maharaj’s better batting, but even there, the difference is marginal - Phangiso averages 12.16 in List A One-Day cricket compared to Maharaj’s average of 14.40. “We have one spinner who is head and shoulders above everyone else, Imran Tahir.,” said Domingo. “If you play Shamsi and Tahir, you have Kagiso Rabada at No9, and that leaves the lower order thin.” It helped Maharaj that he made some valuable contributions in the Test team last summer that included an unbeaten 41 against Australia in Perth whacking three sixes in the process.
South Africa open their Champions Trophy campaign against Sri Lanka at The Oval on June 3, then play Pakistan at Edgbaston four days later and conclude the group phase at The Oval on June 11 against the defending champions, India.
Before the tournament they’ll play a three-match series against England starting on May 24.
* Dr Mohamed Moosajee, the national team’s manager, said yesterday that Cricket SA’s medical staff were keeping a close eye on the rehabilitation of One-Day skipper AB de Villiers whose back ailment has flared up again during the IPL. It is hoped he’ll be back to full fitness soon.
Meanwhile, Dale Steyn is “very much on track” with his shoulder rehabilitation and is expected to be able to bowl flat out in a month’s time. The great fast bowler was picked in an SA 'A' squad that will play three four-day matches in England in June, including one against the England Lions.
SA Squad for Champions Trophy: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), JP Duminy, Dave Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Farhaan Behardien, Keshav Maharaj, Morné Morkel.
SA ‘A’ squad for 50-over series against the England Lions: Reeza Hendricks, Jon Jon Smuts, Aiden Markram, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Khaya Zondo (capt), Hein Kuhn, Dwaine Pretorius, Mangaliso Mosehle, Sisanda Magala, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungisani Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Junior Dala, Dane Paterson
SA‘A’ squad for four-day series against the England Lions: Heino Kuhn, Aiden Markram (capt), Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Khaya Zondo, Jason Smith, Heinrich Klaasen, Dwaine Pretorius, Rudi Second, Dane Piedt, Lungisani Ngidi, Dane Paterson, Duanne Olivier, Junior Dala, Beuran Hendricks, Dale Steyn