While the list of candidates to succeed Graeme Smith as South Africa’s Test captain doesn’t seem to be very long, the national selectors will, nevertheless, still take their time, especially as the next Test assignment is only in July.
AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis, the One-Day International and T20 captains respectively, will be the names up for discussion for Andrew Hudson and his panel of selectors. Once they’ve arrived at a decision, it needs to be approved by Cricket South Africa’s board before the new man is officially appointed.
Time is on Hudson and CSA’s side, with South Africa’s next Test only in July against Sri Lanka. De Villiers, currently the vice-captain, is probably the stronger candidate; his experience – 92 Test caps to Du Plessis’s 14 – makes him favourite to take over from Smith.
It would, of course, lead to a change to the make-up of the national side, for it would be asking a lot of De Villiers to be both wicketkeeper and captain. That much was clear in De Villiers’ position as ODI skipper, where, when keeping and captaining, he did not always seem in complete control whether it was to ensure field placings are correct or to get his bowlers to complete their overs in time.
Quinton de Kock’s inclusion into the ODI side saw De Villiers relinquish the wicketkeeping gloves during last December’s series against India and the benefits were profound. It helped that De Kock was in such prolific form – making centuries in each of the three matches – but De Villiers was also liberated from being behind the stumps and could play a more influential role in directing strategies.
De Kock’s inclusion in a Test team captained by De Villiers would almost be assured. The side’s management would have preferred an easier environment in which to expose him to Test cricket – and had planned on doing so against the West Indies next summer – but circumstances in Port Elizabeth for the second Test, Smith’s retirement and the schedule change that has seen a Sri Lanka trip penned into the calendar, means De Kock’s Test career is starting earlier.
Du Plessis, certainly, wouldn’t be a poor choice for the position; he has a very sound temperament, has played knocks that have earned him the respect of the dressing-room, while at SA A level and with the T20 team, he has shown the necessary tactical nous so critical to being a good Test captain.
Making him captain would probably cause less upheaval to the structure of the Test team, with De Villiers staying as ’keeper, and giving the selectors more options as to who can fill the No7 batting spot – Stiaan van Zyl and Dave Miller would come into the picture in such a scenario.
Whatever move the selectors make, though, this is very much a new era for South African cricket, one with which all of the current Test side will be very unfamiliar. None of them know of a South African team not captained by Graeme Smith, and that will take a long while to sink in. - The Star