JOHANNESBURG – Gaps at the top of the batting order and doubts about the identity of a second seam bowling all-rounder will see the Proteas men’s team continue to experiment with options for the next two One-Day series against Zimbabwe and Australia.
Faf du Plessis will continue to demand patience from the South African public as he, head coach Ottis Gibson and the national selectors run the rule over a variety of players to find the best personnel and combinations for the World Cup in England next year.
The Proteas have “sacrificed” one series on home soil against India and a couple of matches at the tailend of a series they’d already won against Sri Lanka in their quest to identify suitable candidates for the 15-man squad that will head to England.
“What we have seen in the last year is some guys who have shown they are made for the international circuit, and they are ready now, and a few guys that need time,” said skipper Du Plessis.
So the experimenting will continue against Zimbabwe, who South Africa face in three ODIs at the end of September, and Australia, who the Proteas play in three ODIs Down Under in November.
Thereafter, said Du Plessis, he wants a settled 15-man squad for home series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, which will be close to the group for the World Cup.
“We then want to look at the style and brand of cricket we want to play. Going to Sri Lanka, we were hoping to have more questions answered. We went there with quite a few gaps as far as what we were looking for in the team and we came back with one or two questions that still need to be answered.”
The make-up of the top four is one of those questions with Du Plessis still hoping to assess Reeza Hendricks, who made a century on debut in Sri Lanka, Heinrich Klaasen and Aiden Markram in the next six matches. He said Hendricks was one who had come from outside of what could be viewed as a “15” for the World Cup to put “pressure on the guys already there.”
“But you want that because it keeps those guys in the side on their toes and that makes them better.”
The all-rounder spot is critical because of the balance it provides the side and the depth it adds to the batting. Of the candidates used so far, only Andile Phehlukwayo looks to have pencilled himself in for England, while young Wiaan Mulder has impressed and is deserving of more chances and Chris Morris needs to prove his fitness. Vernon Philander remains an option that merits consideration too.
“We have a really good youngster in Wiaan Mulder. With youngsters you have the opportunity to give them more time, whereas an older guy you’re more short-sighted in terms of what you want to get from him. Someone like Mulder will get more opportunities in the next couple of series.”
Du Plessis said he was making good progress with the right shoulder he injured in Sri Lanka, but would not risk playing against Zimbabwe unless it was “100 percent”. He wants to ensure his shoulder is as strong as possible “so that it can last the whole season”.