JOHANNESBURG - Might the Proteas include two or three all-rounders in the squad for the World Cup in 2019? What about four? Or five even? According to Proteas coach Ottis Gibson, he might take them all to England.
“If we’ve got four or five all-rounders performing well with bat and ball... I often talk to the players about no limits, and that is something that, when the time comes, maybe (is) the case with selection too,” Gibson said this week.
South African cricket presently has a depth of seam bowling all-rounders that is reminiscent of the late 1990s and early 2000s when Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis and Lance Klusener were in the national team providing depth in batting and extra options in the bowling department.
The current crop aren’t of that quality yet, but part of Gibson and the national selectors’ policy of "widening the net" is to provide opportunities so that they can assess the standards of the all-rounders at their disposal.
“We are going to pick people who are going to help us win the World Cup and if we feel we need more all-rounders then, if they are performing well and we know they will perform in those conditions, then the team might well be filled with all-rounders, but we don’t know that yet,” Gibson said.
Right now, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Dwaine Pretorius, Wayne Parnell, Vernon Philander, Wiaan Mulder and even Robbie Frylinck can be considered as being in competition for a World Cup spot. The Cape Cobras’ Jason Smith may yet be drawn into the mix too as the season unfolds.
Gibson cited England’s successful use of all-rounders for its limited-overs teams recently, as a reference point for the Proteas.
“If you look at England, who are doing really well at the moment, they’ve got four or five (all-rounders) in their team,” he said.
Given how the Proteas ODI side has been operating recently - even before Gibson’s appointment - it wouldn’t be a surprise if as many as three seam bowling all-rounders start a match.
Gibson’s initial involvement with the national team against Bangladesh has seen him - and the selectors - show a willingness to give as many players as possible an opportunity with age not being a factor.
Mulder is just 19, but Gibson took one look at him - on his first day of watching domestic cricket - and roped him into the Test squad to face Bangladesh. “I like him,” Gibson said of the Lions all-rounder. Similarly, Frylinck, 33, was seemingly picked out of nowhere to play in the two T20 internationals against the Tigers.
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“When I asked around the country about, especially one-day cricket, everyone said he was one of the best white-ball cricketers in the country. Because we spoke about widening the pool of players, it’s only fair, that if we are widening the pool, you look at him,” Gibson explained.
“People will say he’s 33, a young guy coming in doesn’t have the experience of a 33-year-old. There’s a trade off, you want to look at young guys, but you also want to see what the experienced guys can bring to the table as well. He did well over the T20 games. The ball is in his court to do the other stuff around international cricket, and make sure there are more opportunities available to him.”
Mulder’s call-up to train with the Proteas before the first Test in Potchefstroom, was also done with an eye on the future.
“It was a good opportunity to get him around us in the Test series so he can get a feel for what international cricket is all about, but then we saw an opportunity to give him a game as well and he did well... he’ll be back in franchise cricket, hopefully buzzing and excited about his future as well. There is a message in that for every young cricketer and high performing cricketer in the country,” Gibson said.