Former Proteas convener of selectors Omar Henry would like to see South Africa’s “four best seamers” take the field at Newlands against India next week.
Henry, 65, is adamant that to attack the World’s No 1 ranked Test side the Proteas need to “get their guns firing” again, which means an attack that includes spearhead Dale Steyn. The Proteas dismantled Zimbabwe in just two days in Port Elizabeth earlier this week with an attack that comprised of Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, seam bowling all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo and spinner Keshav Maharaj.
Steyn, who has not played international cricket since November last year due to a shoulder injury, was meant to make his long-awaited comeback at St George’s Park only to be struck down by a viral infection on the eve of the Test. He has, though, been included in the squad for Newlands and is expected to be fully-fit.
“Dale simply has to play. We need to play our four best seamers against India plus the spinner. India have improved – both batting and bowling – but in our conditions, we need to attack them with our best four seam bowlers plus the spinner.
“I know he hasn’t played in a while and there is concern about his fitness. But you need to get him playing again, and I can’t see any other way than playing him in a four-man attack. These next two series (India and Australia) are vitally important for South African cricket and if your best players are fit and available, they need to play.”
It certainly is an interesting conundrum facing current national convener Linda Zondi and his panel this week. South Africa have in the recent past either loaded the team with seven specialist batsmen, which they may have to do to accommodate the return of captain Faf du Plessis too, or opted for the safety net of the extra all-rounder. The latter certainly seems to be the current mode of thinking with Phehlukwayo filling that role against Zimbabwe, while Chris Morris has also been added to the squad for Cape Town.
Henry was adamant, though, that South Africa should not be tempted into playing an all-seam attack against India. Having debuted against India – at the ripe old age of 40 – in the inaugural Test between these two countries back in 1992 as a left-arm spinner, Henry is fully aware of the challenges awaiting Maharaj. He does, however, feel that the Dolphins star is equipped for the challenge.
“The weather conditions currently in Cape Town will make it very hard not to play a spinner. The lack of rain water will cause the pitch to be a bit drier than usual for it would have received no unmeasured water. It will dry out quicker than normal.
“There’s no doubt the Indians are reared on a diet of slow left-arm bowlers. They do come at you, so Keshav will be tested mentally. What I have seen of him though is that he is a very calm and collected individual. He doesn’t get flustered or change too many things. He will enjoy the challenge of bowling at some of the best players of spin in the world.”
South Africa squad for Cape Town Test
Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn.