Lungi Ngidi celebrates after taking the wicket of India’s Mohammed Shami. on Wednesday. Photo: REUTERS
South Africa’s fast bowlers will be rotated in and out of the national team as Faf du Plessis wants them all fit and firing for the remainder of the season that concludes with four Tests against Australia.

Although that rotation may not start next week at the Wanderers, where the Proteas will be chasing a series white-wash against the No.1 ranked Indian side, it will most certainly come into effect for the six One-Day Internationals and three T20 Internationals between the two teams.

From a dearth two summers ago, when South Africa lost series away to India and at home to England, this season, the fast bowling cupboard is well stocked.

Sure Dale Steyn is injured, but he is expected to return by the time the first Test starts against Australia on March 1.

Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, look as fit and strong and are bowling as well as at any stage of their respective careers, while in Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi, South Africa have the next two fast bowling superstars of the world game. Chris Morris and Duanne Olivier complete the set.

That ensures there is competition for places, and in his wildest dreams, when he took on the job as head coach, Ottis Gibson would not have reckoned he’d have it this good as far as talent in that department is concerned.

At the same time though, he’ll be wary. Steyn came back from one long term injury and then was unfortunately struck down again, Morkel had to work long and hard to overcome his issues with his back, and of course Ngidi has had a history of ailments, going back to his junior days.

Great care must be taken with all of them. Periods of rests and recovery will be closely monitored and they won’t be playing all the matches.

“The good thing is the group, in terms of guys we can pick, is growing,” said Du Plessis.

“Now we’ve got four or five bowlers, that even if there was an injury there’s someone who can back it up.”

Du Plessis has mentioned on a number of occasions this season the importance of depth in the fast bowling stocks, saying it is critical to South Africa achieving success on home soil.

This is a very big season for the Proteas after a difficult 2017 in which they were bounced out of the Champions Trophy in the group stages, and then lost badly in England - with the fitness of the fast bowlers in that series, among the reasons for the defeat.

“It’s incredibly pleasing, in Lungi’s case, to see a guy come straight in and perform,” said Du Plessis. “So we know as a team we have guys who can slot straight into Test cricket.”

This summer has also seen Du Plessis, persuaded by Gibson, adopt a more aggressive policy as far as selection is concerned, happy to pick five front line bowlers - four seamers and Keshav Maharaj - and leave the run scoring, in the main, up to the six front-line batsmen.

It’s a risky policy, for, with the exception of Dean Elgar, South Africa’s batting has lacked consistency in the last 18 months.

While the return of AB de Villiers has been an important fillip for the side, the form of Quinton de Kock is deeply concerning - as evidenced by his second innings performance in Centurion, when he outside edged four out of five deliveries while scoring 12.

Employing six frontline batsmen, and then having one of them underperforming, is not a healthy option in the long run.

Depending on the pitch at the Wanderers for the third Test starting Wednesday, Gibson and Du Plessis may look at playing sans the spinner, which South Africa has done in the last two Tests at the “Bullring.”

In such a case they could play an extra batsman, most likely Temba Bavuma, to help supplement for De Kock’s shortcomings.

Once the Test series concludes, the rotation of the bowlers will begin, which also fits in with Gibson’s policy of assessing as many players and combinations as possible, as he starts looking to combine the different parts for the 2019 World Cup.


Saturday Star

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