JOHANNESBURG - The three-match one-day international series against Bangladesh gives new Proteas coach Ottis Gibson his first opportunity to come to grips with a key part of his new job - building a South African team that can win the 2019 ICC World Cup.
The initial stages of the plan involve casting the selection net as wide as possible.
“We’re looking at 30 to 35 games between now and 2019 and the idea between Faf (Du Plessis), the selectors and I is to have a look at players who might be on the fringes,” said Gibson.
Of the squad chosen for the Bangladesh series, the likes of Farhaan Behardien - given yet another opportunity - Dane Paterson, Andile Phehlukwayo, Temba Bavuma and Dwaine Pretorius could be bracketed as “fringe players.” Gibson is focused on giving as many players as possible a chance as he seeks to build a 15-man squad for the 2019 tournament.
“We have to give players opportunities so that in a year’s time we narrow that pool down. At the moment we need a wide pool of players to look at. We also need to determine the type of players, bearing in mind the conditions in England, that we’re going to need,” Gibson explained.
“They need opportunities for the next year so that we can make better judgements going forward. Then we finally need to narrow down to 15 or 16 players we feel can play at the World Cup. It’s still a long way, but that’s the plan.”
Du Plessis doesn’t expect the starting XI that featured at the ICC Champions Trophy in England and Wales earlier this year to change much. That was of course a bitterly disappointing event for the Proteas as they lost two out of their three group matches, and looked tentative throughout.
That mental fragility is of course the main issue that needs resolving if the team is to finally crack it at an ICC event, but there’s not a lot Gibson can do about that right now.
It’s the options available to him and new ODI skipper Du Plessis that need assessing before determining exactly what the squad will require in terms of mental strengthening.
“We have a pretty good idea of what we are looking to achieve over the next year and slowly start introducing a couple of players for when the time comes (to finalise a 15-man squad),” said Du Plessis.
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There is plenty to ponder; the middle order comprising of AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and David Miller looks solid, but it’s the all-rounders and how many and who to select that will cause headaches.
Also how much of a future do Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel have as limited-overs players.
Morkel, said Gibson, has been told to focus on enjoying his cricket this season, but the player wants clarity about where exactly he fits into the coach’s plans. Steyn hasn’t played any cricket since breaking down in Perth last November and while talk is of a return soon, until that happens there’s very little on which to judge him.
In terms of the all-rounders, South Africa has a problem that the previous selection panel who picked the team for the 2015 World Cup wish they had - options in the seam bowling all-rounder slot.
Chris Morris expects to make a return to playing at the end of the month, Phehlukwayo has impressed since making his international debut last summer, Dwaine Pretorius too, and while excruciatingly inconsistent, Wayne Parnell does remain a candidate for the one-day side.
The likes of Aaron Phangiso, Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj are all options as back up to Imran Tahir, who will be 40 by the time World Cup rolls around in May of 2019.
SA ODI squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Wayne Parnell, Dane Paterson, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada.