The South African One-Day team’s strategy will be upset by the absence of Jacques Kallis for next year’s World Cup but not to the point that it will jeopardise their chances of success at the event.
An in-form Kallis lengthened the batting line-up and provided greater depth and variety with the ball. However, Kallis hadn’t showed the requisite form in Sri Lanka – he didn’t bowl and contributed five runs with the bat.
The South African One-Day side had grown accustomed to operating without Kallis in recent years. Given time off to lengthen his career and get him through to what would have been a sixth World Cup, Kallis missed series in England and Pakistan and wasn’t in the squad for their most recent tournament, the Champions Trophy last year.
However Kallis’ all-round skills meant South Africa could often play eight batsmen and seven bowlers, an important strategic balance given the location of the next World Cup – New Zealand and Australia – and the fact that two balls are used (one at either end) in ODIs.
The natural inclination would be just to pick Faf du Plessis and leave the bowling to a six-man attack – Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel, Vernon Philander, Imran Tahir, Ryan McLaren and JP Duminy. Whether that is to be the case remains to be seen.
Kallis’ retirement leaves Russell Domingo and the selectors with six months to get that balance right. There will be some tinkering for the three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe after the one-off Test next week.
The selectors meet on Tuesday to pick a squad for that series and the subsequent triangular event that will also feature Australia.
Domingo said he was considering resting Steyn, Philander and Morkel for the first three ODIs with Zimbabwe because they played in every match in Sri Lanka.
“It might be an ideal time to look at some of our younger fast bowlers in those three matches against Zimbabwe. Guys like Kyle Abbott and Wayne Parnell, fringe players who have not had a lot of game time, it might be a great opportunity for AB (de Villiers) to see what they can do.”
Ah yes, De Villiers, not universally acclaimed as a captain when first handed the reins after the previousWorld Cup, has looked a more assured leader in the past 12 months.
He has led the side to series wins against Pakistan, India and now Sri Lanka. As he pointed out, a lot of that success is down to his being more comfortable in the position and the side appearing to be more settled.
There was a lot of tinkering with the team by Gary Kirsten in 2011 and 2012. Players were rotated and rested, there were some new faces, some were given opportunities to establish themselves (McLaren being the main beneficiary of that policy) others have fallen by the wayside (Lonwabo Tsotsobe, due to injury).
“Everyone understands his role better and what is expected of him. That was not the (case) when I came into the team as captain, guys didn’t know where they fitted in,” explained De Villiers.
“(I’ve) got a bit more confidence (as captain). It’s natural when following on from someone like Graeme Smith to doubt yourself, and I did a little bit, but my confidence levels have got bigger over the last while. Just getting to know my players better has helped, who to rely on in pressure situations, which guys to strike with… things like that you get used to over time.”
De Villiers has scored three centuries in his last 14 ODIs, averaging 60.2 with the bat in that period.
Quinton de Kock’s form at the top of the order – with Hashim Amla – has been a key component of the side’s recent success.
The middle order looks sufficiently solid and contains the power and dynamism to clear the boundary in the latter stages of the innings while the bowling – with the trio of Test seamers and Tahir – has wicket-taking ability, a vital aspect with the two new balls in operation.
One area in which the Proteas needed to improve, was their fielding, De Villiers said.– Sunday Independent