JOHANNESBURG – While obviously grateful to have some Proteas available, Jozi Stars coach Enoch Nkwe knows he’ll have disappointing news for a few players who have got the side through a reasonably successful first week in the Mzansi Super League.
Reeza Hendricks, Dwaine Pretorius and Kagiso Rabada were all hard at work at training yesterday in preparation for the Stars' next match against the table-topping Cape Town Blitz at the Wanderers tomorrow.
The trio were part of the successful tour party that won the one-day series and one-off T20 in Australia and their presence has further revitalised a squad that picked up an impressive midweek win in Paarl.
Rabada was tinkering with parts of his action under Nkwe’s watchful eye yesterday.
There was a new addition to the coaching staff as well, with Donovan Miller, who is head coach of the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in the Caribbean Premier League, lending a hand. Miller will be "shadowing" the Stars coaching staff for the duration of the MSL.
Nkwe said he could well leave the composition of his starting XI to an hour before the toss to leave him and skipper Dane Vilas sufficient time to assess conditions.
The bonus-point win over the Paarl Rocks highlighted just how much depth there is in the Stars team; the top-order batting clicked better than was expected with Rassie van der Dussen and Ryan Rickelton scoring excellent half-centuries, while Australian import Dan Christian gave everyone a boost with his 11-ball 32 not out that lifted the Stars passed the 200 mark.
So who is likely to be dropped?
“With the Proteas coming back, one or two guys might miss out; that’s the nature of the beast. But you also can’t ignore guys who are doing well, and it’s about finding the best balance,” said Nkwe.
Rickelton, Man of the Match in Paarl after making 91, is most likely to be sacrificed for Hendricks, and that may be the easiest call to make.
The composition of the bowling unit looks like being more complicated. If the pitch at the Wanderers resembles what the Stars played on for the opening match last weekend against the Giants, Nkwe may look at retaining both spinners, Eddie Leie and Simon Harmer, in the starting XI.
If Nkwe gets what he wants from the surface, then only one will play but that would still leave a decision to be made about who to drop for Rabada and Pretorius.
“We would prefer a pitch more suited to our quicks,” said Nkwe.
That’s understandable when those quicks, Beuran Hendricks and Duanne Olivier, have shown such good form - although the Blitz can counter with Dale Steyn and the impressive Anrich Nortje.
It's gearing up for an intriguing selection meeting for a match that even in a tournament that is only a week old, has a lot riding on the outcome.
“We’ll have to do some proper analysis; a win for us opens up the competition, but they’ve played some brilliant cricket,” Nkwe said of the Blitz.
“Ashwell (Prince) has backed the youngsters and they have responded well, the experienced players have stepped into their roles well also.”