JOHANNESBURG - All this World Cup talk emanating from the Proteas camp may seem premature, given that there are still 18 months left before the start of the 12th edition of the tournament.
There are too many ‘unknowns’; the fitness of a host of players - particularly bowlers - the new coach is still being integrated and of course form, an unquantifiable trait that can only really be measured once the tournament begins, doesn’t bear measuring right now.
However, the Proteas deserve some credit for at least being open about their intentions. Faf du Plessis and Ottis Gibson want to mix and match, tinker and experiment with personnel and combinations. Players who perform well maybe dropped, just so that someone else can be tried and even within a match itself players could be tossed into unusual roles just to ‘give them a go’ - as would have been the case for Andile Phehlukwayo in Kimberley on Sunday. Du Plessis said the young all-rounder may have come in at first drop had either Hashim Amla or Quinton de Kock been dismissed.
It’s not the normal South African way - all this chopping and changing and perhaps that’s why Du Plessis and Gibson have been so public about their plans. At this stage, it is a more than useful exercise to engage in, especially for Gibson who may not be familiar with players outside of the core group. So, as well as Amla and De Kock played in Kimberley, one of them, most likely Amla will sit out at some point against Bangladesh to give Temba Bavuma a chance at the top of the order, the same will hold true for one of the middle order batsmen with Farhaan Behardien waiting for an opportunity.
Might matches or even series’s be sacrificed in all this? Certainly, and that won’t go down well with those who believe every match is sacrosanct. However, Du Plessis and Gibson will also demand of the public - and the many verbose former players - to remain patient, at least for the next year. At this time next year, South Africa is scheduled to be in Australia for five ODIs and once that tour is completed, a clearer picture should emerge of the group that’s likely to head to England in the winter of 2019.
For now, Bangladesh is fodder for this South African side. They can afford to experiment.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh could do with the next two weeks passing as quickly as possible so they can just head home. They produced a decent effort with the bat on Sunday, saw Mushfiqur Rahim make the country’s first century against South Africa and still they got hammered.
“We are doing everything possible. The result is not coming in our favour to keep mentality positive,” their skipper Mashrafe Mortaza said afterwards.
It appears one of their key bowlers, Mustafizur Rahman could miss the remainder of the tour owing to an ankle injury, while Tamim Iqbal may have to undergo a fitness test to prove his readiness for the Paarl encounter.