Johannesburg - Vernon Philander’s return to the Proteas one-day international squad for the five-match series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates next month owes more to the selectors’ hope that he’ll be able to produce the necessary skills to be a success in that format than it does to any form he’s displayed in one-day cricket recently.
Philander has played just eight ODIs, spread over five years, but as South Africa have sought control and the ability to take wickets, his name has been mentioned loudest as the player to help South Africa resolve their bowling problems in the 50-over format.
However, the 28-year-old’s ODI record is not very good - even domestically - and his recall to the ODI side - he last played against Sri Lanka in Kimberley 21 months ago - is ostensibly based on his Test form and as Russell Domingo mentioned on Tuesday he’s ability to “up-skill”.
“He needs to work on subtle variations, whether it’s being able to bowl yorkers consistently at the back end (of the innings), finding a slower ball in the middle or being able to bowl a more vicious bouncer. In one-day cricket it’s not just about being able to hit the top of off-stump for 10 overs,” the Proteas coach explained on Tuesday.
Hitting the top of off-stump is, of course, the reason Philander has been such a revelation in the Test team these past two years. However, the same kind of consistency that has proved successful in five-day cricket is mere fodder for batsmen in the one-day arena where “scoops” and reverse sweeps are increasingly the norm.
“Vernon’s strength in Test cricket is the line and lengths he hits, those lines and lengths in one-day cricket at the back-end of one-day matches become hittable lengths,” Domingo added.
“Vernon is a very skilful cricketer, I judge a player’s skill on how easily they are able to ‘up-skill’, play a new shot or be able to learn how to bowl a new delivery and he’s a very skilful cricketer so will be able to do so as far as I’m concerned.”
Domingo justified Philander’s ODI recall outlining the form he’d displayed for the Jamaica Tallawahs by helping them win the recently completed Caribbean T20 competition, where he took nine wickets at an average of 21.88 with an economy rate of 6.79 in eight matches.
Andrew Hudson, the chairman of the national selection panel, explained that it was still worthwhile experimenting with the make-up of the ODI squad now, and that a more stable outlook would be seen in the 12 months leading up to the 2015 World Cup. Farhaan Berhardien and Colin Ingram have been dropped from the group that lost in Sri Lanka recently, while Graeme Smith returns at the top of the order. Jacques Kallis, as expected, won’t play in the UAE, though, he is expected to be part of the ODI series - however many matches that may be - against India in the summer.
“There are 28 ODIs left (before the World Cup) and Jacques will evaluate where he is in terms of his career at the end of this season,” said Domingo.
Smith, meanwhile, is optimistic that his troublesome ankle will be ready in time for the first Test against Pakistan, starting on October 14 in Abu Dhabi. “It’s hard to know where I am, I’ve been rehabbing for a very long time. I feel things have gone well, the next three weeks will become very cricket-specific for me,” the Proteas Test captain said.
South Africa last played a Test in February, and Smith reckoned on Tuesday that such a long break from the game will prove challenging for his side particularly in conditions expected to favour spin.
“You come off a long break and go to conditions that will be foreign to what we will be preparing on here. We need to maximise our preparation.
“There is not a huge amount of time before the first Test, you need to be street smart, understand what needs to be done and how to be most effective going into that first Test,” he added.
SA SQUADS FOR UAE:
Test: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Rory Kleinveldt, Morné Morkel, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Thami Tsolekile.
ODI: AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morné Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.