JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s players and its supporters must get accustomed to chopping and changing, resting and rotating as the national selectors run the rule over candidates for the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
That was the gist of selection convener Linda Zondi’s reasoning for Khaya Zondo being called up to the Proteas One-Day International squad ahead of Farhaan Behardien for the first three matches against India, the first of which will be played in Durban next Thursday.
“We basically know what (Behardien) can offer, and it’s important that we increase that pool and give opportunities, so when the time comes later this year, we are not clouded by certain players and not knowing if they deserve a chance,” Zondi said at the Wanderers on Thursday morning.
Zondo’s selection ahead of the in-form Behardien was the major surprise in the 15-man squad announced on Thursday, which also includes a first call-up to the ODI side for Lungi Ngidi, while Tabraiz Shamsi’s good form in the white-ball formats has also been rewarded.
“This is a holistic approach in terms of giving opportunity,” Zondi added.
Behardien has scored 364 runs for the Titans in the Momentum One-Day Cup, at an average of 52 and at a strike rate of 92.85, scoring four half-centuries.
That is a run of form that started in the RamSlam, where he was dismissed just once with an aggregate of 234 runs.
By comparison, Zondo’s form has been inconsistent. He played just one innings of note in the RamSlam this season, and in the One-Day Cup, he’s averaging 43.83 with a strike rate of 65.09.
“He can play a role in terms of rotating the strike and he has the strength to clear the boundary. He’s done reasonably well in the franchise set-up for two years. He’s shown skill and potential in the SA A side,” said Zondi.
Zondo, who captained the SA A One-Day team last year, previously toured with the Proteas to India three years ago when AB de Villiers led the team to a 3-2 ODI series win, but the 27-year-old did not get a look-in over the course of the five matches.
In fact, Zondo’s omission for the final ODI in Mumbai caused a stir within South African cricket when Dean Elgar was sent a SOS after an injury to JP Duminy.
Elgar was selected straight off the plane for the series decider at the Wankhede Stadium despite Zondo having been part of the touring squad.
The fallout over Zondo’s non-selection caused a group of black African cricketers, calling themselves “Black Cricketers in Unity”, to send a letter to Cricket South Africa to address their concerns over their treatment in national squads, claiming they are mostly being used as drinks carriers.
Zondi explained that the selection will continue with a rotation policy for the ODI squad through the Sri Lanka series in August, following which he believes he and coach Ottis Gibson should have a clearer idea of the 15 players South Africa want to pick for the World Cup.
He was quick to add that it doesn’t mean the team want to sacrifice results.
“The players who we’ve given opportunities to (previously) haven’t embarrassed us, they’ve not weakened the team,” he said.
Proteas ODI Squad
Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Morné Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khaya Zondo.
February 1: Day/Night @ 13h30, 1st ODI, Kingsmead, Durban
February 4: Day @ 10h00, 2nd ODI, SuperSport Park, Centurion
February 7: D/N @ 13h30, 3rd ODI, Newlands, Cape Town
February 10: D/N @ 13h30, 4th ODI, Wanderers, Johannesburg
February 13: D/N @ 13h30, 5th ODI, St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth
February 16: D/N @ 13h30, 6th ODI, SuperSport Park, Centurion