Gqeberha — SA A coach Shukri Conrad explained his reasons for not picking a second spinner as it being a waste of opportunity because it is unlikely that that extra spinner will play for the Test side given that there is no subcontinent tour in SA’s World Test Championship schedule.
A lot of questions were asked when Conrad and his staff announced their SA A squad in April.
One of the key questions was about the fact that the ‘A’ side is seam bowler heavy with only one spinner in Senuran Muthusamy while the rest are part-time spinners that rarely bowl even for their teams in domestic cricket here in South Africa.
For a number of people, it was a concern because in Sri Lanka, just like in all the other subcontinent wickets, spinners have an advantage while seamers tend to be less effective.
For some reason, coach Conrad, decided to go with seamers.
In his reasoning in an exclusive interview with IOL Sport, Conrad expressed that his selection decision was made looking at where the Test side will be playing in the next cycle of the World Test Championship.
“If you look at where we play our next five or four Test series’, none of them are in the subcontinent,” said Conrad.
“We’ve got three home Test series’, one away in New Zealand and one in the West Indies so you are right because we always look to grow that fast bowling pool so this is one way of doing that.
“A guy like Brevis and Stubbs, this is part of the plan to see how they go with the ball and give me options with a batter that can bowl a few overs of spin because we are constantly looking for that all-rounder especially when we play home where we’re most likely to play all our quick bowlers.
“If I were to take more spinners, I take them on the ‘A’ tour only for them to never play in the national side in the foreseeable future then I would have missed opportunities to see other players so I’d rather go this route.
“I don’t think the wickets are going to be that spin-friendly in Sri Lanka anyway. I think we will surprise a lot of people with what will potentially come out of this tour.” He added.
Another exciting element to Conrad’s ‘A’ squad is the return of Kyle Verreynne, Zubayr Hamza and Lutho Sipamla who all have been dropped from the Test squad recently with Hamza serving a nine-month ban last year.
Keegan Petersen could also be put in the same group having been shifted from number three to number five in the batting order in the first Test and then dropped for Ryan Rickleton in the second Test against the West Indies earlier this year.
Conrad insists that there is a chance for these guys to get back into the Proteas Test side and that it is all in their hands now that they will have a chance in the ‘A’ tour.
“To those guys the message is quite simple, the door is never closed,” said ‘A’ coach Conrad, who is also Proteas Test team head coach.
“I think with an eye in the Test team, there's a few batting spots that have not been nailed down.
“I say this I don’t know how many times now, the batting line up is a work in progress. With the opportunities on this ‘A’ tour the guys can put their names out there for us to seriously consider them for the Proteas Test side.
“I think it’s the great opportunity for those guys to put on big performances and those will go a long way in getting them closer to that Test side.” He added.
For the first time in a long time, the ‘A’ side is a youthful team with many players born in the 2000s. As exciting as that is, it also means that the team lacks experience.
Conrad says he is fully aware of the inexperienced nature of his team and that this tour will have two elements to it – developing players and winning the two format series’.
“Obviously the developmental aspect is a lot more important than the winning. But I do believe that both can happen at the same time. You can develop players and win games at the same time,” said Conrad.
“We want to see how these boys transition from our domestic game to this step up which is closer to international cricket and then also for our young proteas guys, guys like Tony (de Zorzi), Gerald (Coetzee), KP (Petersen) and even a guy like Verreynne who’s had some international cricket.
“It’s just for them to build on that and so that when India comes around at the end of the year we don’t come in too cold. At least we would have had some form of cricket that is a step up from our first-class cricket back at home.” He added.
Conrad suffered an illness 48 hours before the team left for Sri Lanka on Wednesday and stayed behind to gain his strength back. That allowed Rob Walter to join the coaching staff as assistant coach of this ‘A’ squad.
Conrad emphasised that with Walter being present in the tour, he will be able to see these promising youngsters first-hand which will come in handy for the future of the Proteas white ball teams.
“I’m a lot better now. I’m going through the boarding gates now for my flight to Sri Lanka,” said Conrad.
“Initially we were only hoping for red-ball cricket because the Test side doesn’t play a lot of cricket, but we understand that Sri Lanka wanted one-day cricket as well.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to hone our one-day skills as well and Rob is there already as assistant coach so it gives him a first-hand look of some of the guys coming through.” He concluded.
The first of three 50-over games starts in Kandy on Sunday.