JOHANNESBURG – Neither Reeza Hendricks nor Aiden Markram did enough to knock Hashim Amla out of contention for the World Cup.
And Markram’s dynamism and versatility was judged to be more valuable than Hendricks’ steadiness as an opener.
Those were among the toughest decisions Linda Zondi and his Proteas selection panel wrestled with as they finally settled on the 15-man squad for the World Cup, which South Africa will open when they face host nation England at The Oval on May 30.
“We looked at their past records. For both Hendricks and Markram, they had to do something better than Hashim Amla...” said Zondi.
He left the rest of that sentence unsaid.
Instead, he pointed to those statistics – Amla averages nearly 50, and has scored almost 8 000 runs in 174 ODIs. Even as he struggled this season, he averaged 53.50 against Pakistan.
Neither Hendricks nor Markram matched those figures.
Ultimately, Zondi’s panel had to choose between that duo, with Markram’s ability to bat anywhere in the order seeing him backed by the selectors.
“Markram is capable of batting one to six – he showed that at franchise level,” said Zondi.
Markram returned to the Titans after the Tests against Sri Lanka, and hit three centuries for his domestic side in the Momentum One-Day Cup.
He scored 169 batting at No 5 against the Cobras, even though he came to the crease in the fourth over.
A few days later as an opener, he made 139 against Warriors and in the final, batting at No 4, he scored 127.
Markram’s exuberance and crisp back-foot punch through the covers to bring up the world-cup-winning runs, anyone?! Having made history at age-group level, trust @AidzMarkram to deliver another record at the global showpiece. #CWC19 #ProteaFire pic.twitter.com/aRrAziu8o7— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) April 18, 2019
Besides the batting, Zondi admitted that deciding whether to pick a back-up wicket-keeper, and a spinner who could bat, had also led to some difficult conversations.
Omitting Chris Morris wasn’t as hard as many had made out.
“From a roles point of view, he didn’t fit with our needs,” said Zondi. “Yes, he’s got X-factor, but when you look holistically, our plan was to take a batting all-rounder.
“Chris Morris didn’t fit that. He fits as a bowling all-rounder, but we went with (Anrich) Nortje because we felt that if asked, he’d definitely bowl 10 overs.
“Morris hasn’t bowled 10 overs for us.”
Zondi outlined that Morris’ inconsistency, especially with the ball, worked against him.
For that bowler who can send down 150kph yorkers, Faf will turn to @AnrichNortje02. If it’s pace you want then it’s pace he'll deliver! A relatively unknown factor on the world stage, he brings the speed and mystery to proceedings#CWC19 #ProteaFire pic.twitter.com/QteDbeyQHX— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) April 18, 2019
As for the racial composition of the squad, Cricket SA president Chris Nenzani said it fitted with the federation’s demands, while reiterating there would be no repeat of the debacle that unfolded before the semi-final in 2015, when the starting XI was changed before South Africa faced New Zealand.
“This team has been selected solely by the selection panel, without any interference in that process,” said Nenzani.
“There will also be no interfering in the team that will take to the field on a match-by-match basis.
“(The coach, captain and selection convenor’s) decision is going to be final – no one else is going to interfere, and nobody else should try to interfere.”
Proteas World Cup Squad
Faf du Plessis (captain), JP Duminy, David Miller, Dale Steyn, Andile Phehlukwayo, Imran Tahir, Kagiso Rabada, Dwaine Pretorius, Quinton de Kock, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, Hashim Amla, Tabraiz Shamsi.@shockerhess