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There may be no World Cup this year but there is an ICC Champions Trophy on offer and that should immediately attract the attention of the Proteas.
It seems like it already has, with national convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson yesterday naming four new caps in South Africa’s squad for the three-match ODI series against New Zealand in the build-up to the ICC event in England in mid-year.
The Highveld Lions duo of Quinton de Kock and Aaron Phangiso, Titans batsman Farhaan Behardien and Cape Cobras all-rounder Rory Kleinveldt will continue their gradual integration into the national setup during this series.
Coach Gary Kirsten’s management programme for 37-year-old Jacques Kallis also takes effect this series. The star all-rounder will rest until the Pakistan Test series next month and will play no part against the Black Caps. JP Duminy was not considered due to his long-term Achilles injury which has opened up space for Colin Ingram to be recalled.
“The four newcomers have all been doing well, either in domestic cricket or by representing the Proteas in other formats,” Hudson said yesterday. “We have done well in our ODI series over the past year with victories over Sri Lanka and New Zealand and a drawn series in England, so we have every confidence that this squad is on the right track. Duminy should also be fit by the time of the Champions Trophy to give us another selection option.”
De Kock’s selection is another significant step in the 20-year-old wicketkeeper’s fledgling career. Proteas ODI captain and ‘keeper AB de Villiers is back in the squad but could possibly give up the gloves to allow De Kock further opportunity to acclimatise at international level.
De Villiers has publically stated on numerous occasions that he enjoys the responsibilities of all three disciplines: keeping, batting and leadership. However, there have been growing signs that the burden may be too heavy to carry, resulting in his long-time schoolmate Faf du Plessis leading the Proteas in the T20 series.
South Africa’s success in the Test arena, which has resulted in the World No 1 ranking, is a magnificent achievement. Graeme Smith’s team has shown great resolve over the past couple of years, with their mental strength being applauded.
But for some reason, this group of players and previous teams before them have struggled to replicate this in limited-overs cricket. The disparity between the Test side and T20 outfit was especially significant last year when South Africa could not carry the momentum gained from claiming the ICC Test mace in England into the World T20 in Sri Lanka.
Cricket South Africa have attempted to rectify this through the promotion of assistant coach Russell Domingo to head up the T20 side now, with Kirsten still overseeing the overall unit. It is hoped that the introduction of fresh ideas might galvanise the Proteas.
“We only have the three ODI matches against New Zealand plus another five against Pakistan to prepare our squad for the ICC Champions Trophy Tournament in England in the middle of the year,” Hudson said. “The Champions Trophy also marks the halfway point to the next ICC World Cup so this is a critical part of our preparation to win these two major ICC events.”
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Test squad will gather in Port Elizabeth tomorrow for the second Test starting at St George’s Park on Friday.
The squad will have an additional member in the form of Knights all-rounder Ryan McLaren. Although Vernon Philander does expect to be fit, the Proteas management have called on McLaren as cover should his strained left hamstring not recover.
ODI: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, Morné Morkel, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Test: Graeme Smith (capt), AB de Villiers (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Jacques Kallis, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, Morné Morkel, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Jacques Rudolph, Dale Steyn.