Lack of SA representation in World Cup selection puzzling

South Africa’s Anrich Nortje (right) was the only Proteas player to make the T20 World Cup XI but only as the 12th man. | IANS

South Africa’s Anrich Nortje (right) was the only Proteas player to make the T20 World Cup XI but only as the 12th man. | IANS

Published Jul 2, 2024


Zaahier Adams

Selection is always a contentious issue. Even more when it’s related to a “best-ever XI”, or in this case, a “team of the tournament”.

The ICC announced its T20 World Cup XI after the completion of the recent tournament held in the US and Caribbean yesterday. The selection panel consisted of commentators Harsha Bhogle (India), Ian Bishop (West Indies) and Kass Naidoo (South Africa), and ICC general manager of cricket Wasim Khan (Pakistan).

Players from four different nations – Afghanistan, Australia, India and West Indies – were named in the XI, with South Africa’s fast bowler Anrich Nortje nobly named 12th man.

It is to be understood that champions India, who became the first team to win the T20 World Cup unbeaten, would have the majority of the representation. But six players does seem a bit excessive.

Indian captain Rohit Sharma has been appointed skipper and will be joined by Player- of-the-Tournament Jasprit Bumrah, batter Suryakumar Yadav, all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Axar Patel, and left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh.

The latter’s inclusion was entirely justified as he claimed the joint-most wickets (17) in the tournament along with Afghanistan’s Fazalhaq Farooqi, who was one of three Afghans selected.

The first-time T20 World Cup semi-finalists were justifiably rewarded for their dream run with leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who claimed 14 wickets at an average of 12.78 in the tournament, and opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz joining Farooqi.

Gurbaz topped the run-scoring charts with 281 runs, which included three half-centuries, and was also appointed wicketkeeper of the XI. Co-hosts West Indies’ sole representation in the team was the explosive Nicholas Pooran, while Australia all-rounder Marcus Stoinis was also selected.

Stoinis’ selection is particularly surprising. While his statistics of 169 runs at an average of over 40, and a strike rate in excess of 160, while chipping in with 10 wickets, may make for impressive reading, the Aussie disappeared in the matches that mattered most, resulting in his team missing out on the semi-finals.

Equally, both Stoinis’ half-centuries were made against the Associate nations Oman and Scotland. And if the fact that his bowling was taken into account to add greater balance, the team selected already has six bowling options.

It seems incomprehensible that the Proteas only have Nortje, who does not even make the starting XI.

There is no better T20 batter walking in at No 5 in the world than the Proteas’ Heinrich Klaasen. And while the XI is, of course, only picked on the performances during the tournament, Klaasen did more than enough to warrant selection.

Despite playing on surfaces in New York and St Vincent and Grenadine in the Caribbean that weighed heavily in favour of the bowlers, Klaasen found a way to be successful.

His match-winning 46 against Bangladesh ensured the Proteas left the US unscathed after a thrilling last over. But his 24-run demolition of Patel on the grandest stage en route to the fastest half-century in a T20 World Cup final should have tilted the vote in his favour.

Klaasen and a few more Proteas should feel that they deserve greater recognition for winning eight matches in succession before pushing eventual champions India to the absolute limit in an absorbing final.

ICC Team of The Tournament: Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh (all India); Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Rashid Khan, Fazalhaq Farooqi (Afghanistan); Marcus Stoinis (Australia); and Nicholas Pooran (West Indies); 12th man: Anrich Nortje (South Africa)

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