JOHANNESBURG – It wasn’t only viewers and commentators who were caught by surprise when Dwaine Pretorius was named in the Proteas ODI squad for Australia – so was the player himself.
“When I’ve played (for the Proteas) I’ve done quite well, but my performances of late, especially getting ‘a pair’ at the Wanderers in my last game, I thought there was no chance,” Pretorius said on Friday.
And yet, he’ll be boarding a flight on Tuesday bound for Canberra, where South Africa will play a warm-up match ahead of a three-match ODI series against a beleaguered Australian unit in what national coach Ottis Gibson has described as one of the final opportunities for players to stake a claim for a spot in the World Cup squad.
The tour ends with a T20 International on November 17.
It’s been a year since Pretorius played his last ODI against Bangladesh in Paarl, and with Wiaan Mulder and Andile Phehlukwayo getting extended runs in the national side since, it appeared as though his chances of cracking a World Cup place were gone.
However despite Mulder being sidelined for a few months following ankle surgery, Pretorius, like many others believed that his good chum Chris Morris’ return to form and fitness would see him called up as the sole replacement.
The selectors, following the opinion of Gibson, who wants to play as many all-rounders as possible, included Pretorius as an additional big-hitting seam-bowling option for the series Down Under.
And the 29-year-old is naturally very keen to take the chance that’s been handed to him.
“I’ve got nothing to lose on this tour,” he said. “It’s an opportunity, as a player that’s all you can ask for.
“I’ve been working really hard in the off-season. My cricket’s in a good space at the moment, the performances haven’t come.
“But I’m really comfortable with where my cricket is at the moment, and hopefully I make it count.”
Hard work and perseverance paid off Pretorius when he made his international debut against Ireland in 2016, and he did well enough in his first nine matches, including a man-of-the-match performance in the ‘Pink ODI’ against Sri Lanka, to earn a spot in the Champions Trophy squad in England last year.
He didn’t play a game in that tournament, and got a few outings against Bangladesh when Gibson took over as coach, but hasn’t been seen since in national colours.
Meanwhile, Phehlukwayo and Mulder have played regularly, Morris was always going to get back in once fit, and Rob Frylinck has been given a few opportunities with the T20 side.
For Pretorius, this surprise call-up is thus a very big opportunity against opponents who may be scarred psychologically after a dreadful year, to stake a World Cup claim.
“All of us (seam bowling) all-rounders have different skills, each guy has something that makes him special.
“Where I went wrong last season maybe was trying to compete with those guys, instead of focusing on what made me get to the team,” said Pretorius.
“I’m back to that, and hopefully that is good enough. I’m not trying to compete with anyone.
“I’m trying to be the best I can be on the pitch. Hopefully that will be enough for Ottis and Linda (Zondi) for the World Cup.”