Proteas must back Wiaan Mulder to develop in to world-class all-rounder
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Cape Town - Many moons ago, the Proteas could field three outstanding all-rounders in their Test team: Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener.
While the latter two were both bowling all-rounders, they were good enough with the bat to score centuries.
Pollock and Klusener contributed a number of half-centuries too, and were able to play to what the situation required – blazing strokes to set up a lead or unsettle the bowling, or to be patient to take the sting out of the opposition’s attack.
Very few cricketers can compare with ‘King Kallis’, who was one of the finest batters in the world, and was also an outstanding slip fielder. As a bowler, Kallis was capable of bowling a ‘heavy ball’ that rushed on to batters quicker than expected, and was also a legendary partnership-breaker.
I can just imagine that Proteas coach Mark Boucher wouldn’t mind having just one of those premier all-rounders in his current Test line-up.
Boucher and the selection panel, though, have surprised somewhat by omitting the only genuine all-rounder in the squad, Wiaan Mulder, for the last two Tests against India.
The 23-year-old from Joburg hasn’t really settled into the five-day format yet, having featured in just seven matches since making his debut against Sri Lanka in Gqeberha in February 2019.
In 11 innings with the bat, he’s scored just 156 runs at an average of 14.18, with a highest score of 36. His bowling statistics certainly look much better – 14 wickets at 26.35.
Mulder was picked for the first Test against India at Centurion, but didn’t make much of an impact, scoring 12 and one with the bat, and 0/74 in 29 overs with the ball.
His lack of runs on the board must be particularly frustrating for himself and Boucher, as he is highly capable with the bat. Mulder’s first-class average is a solid 34.52 after 43 matches, with a highest score of
146 and five centuries and six half-centuries to his name.
But the Centurion performance resulted in the Proteas management sticking with tall 21-year-old left-armer Marco Jansen at the Wanderers and Newlands, and bringing in fast bowler Duanne Olivier into the side.
Jansen had impressed with 4/55 in the second innings at Centurion, and also hung around at the crease with the bat to score 19 and 13.
While Jansen undoubtedly has excellent potential – especially as a left-arm paceman – Mulder would add much better balance to the playing XI with the bat going forward, so perhaps Boucher and Co should ponder over whether to pick Olivier alongside Jansen, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi.
I think Mulder is someone worth persevering with, as he could develop into a fine batting all-rounder who could score valuable runs down the order and do a holding job with the ball and break partnerships.
He will turn 24 next month and needs to be given an extended run in the team to find his feet at Test level – Kallis, for instance, only scored his first hundred in his seventh match, a 101 against Australia, and he was more of a specialist batsman at that stage than what Mulder is currently.
So, the upcoming tour to New Zealand is an ideal opportunity for Mulder to play, while he is also set for a county stint with Leicestershire this year.
If he comes off with the bat, in particular, it will provide South Africa with a much stronger line-up.