Why was it even a debate around whether Hashim Amla should be part of the Proteas World Cup squad?
The bearded wonder may have been out of touch over the last few weeks for the Cape Cobras, but that was totally understandable.
He has spent time out of the game to see to his ill father, and even reportedly chose to play in the low-key CSA T20 Challenge instead of signing a short-term English county deal.
But Amla’s quality and record in England is not in doubt, and neither should his place in the squad have been questioned.
The real duel for the extra batsman spot was between Aiden Markram and Reeza Hendricks, and I would include David Miller in that equation as well.
While Markram is being touted by many as the next big thing in South African cricket – and even a future captain by some – his performances in ODI cricket certainly does not reflect that.
Yes, he’s hit three hundreds for the Titans in the One-Day Cup this season, which probably gave him the edge over Hendricks in the selectors’ thinking.
But Markram just seems so unsure of himself in Proteas ODI kit. Perhaps it’s the fact that he batted in No 3 instead of opening that made him a bit unsettled and unable to convert starts into substantial scores.
The selectors have been experimenting a lot this past season in order to evaluate candidates, but when they pick their full strength side for the World Cup opener against England, then surely Amla and Quinton de Kock will be at top of the order.
A player fast approaching the milestone of 8000 ODI runs & has 2 #CWC19 tons to his name.— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) April 18, 2019
Fastest to: 2000, 3000, 4000 & 5000 ODI runs @amlahash will be bringing his class and temperament to the Proteas setup. #ProteaFire pic.twitter.com/VtazYpyvxa
Numbers three to six must include captain Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy.
So, what about four and five?
You would think Rassie van der Dussen has the inside lane at No 4, but for all his consistency, his strike-rate of 75.58 is definitely a concern.
He may have scored four half-centuries in eight innings, but can he take the game away from the opposition, or win it for his country?
A similar theory applies to the man probably regarded as a shoo-in at No 5, David Miller. His strike-rate of 100.86 is not the issue, but rather his ability to play vital innings under pressure.
He produced against Australia Down Under last year with a masterful 139 in Hobart, but how often has he done that in his career?
.@DavidMillerSA12 has the highest career strike rate in ODI cricket for the Proteas amongst the active players, in 120 ODIs, the left-hander averages a run-a-ball ton.— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) April 18, 2019
His prowess & ability with the bat will drive the Proteas campaign in England.#CWC19 #ProteaFire pic.twitter.com/NQY4nahonG
And he battles to come in and just fire from the start if the situation requires it.
That is why, considering all these concerns, AB de Villiers should’ve been part of this squad.
He decided to retire from international cricket, but was any attempt made to bring him back into the fold for the World Cup?
I doubt Cricket South Africa would’ve gone that far, and it is unlikely that the man himself wants to be involved in another campaign – considering the heartbreak of the 2015 semi-final.
“That’s (being sharp’s) exactly the reason why I decided not to play international cricket, it’s to be as sharp as I can in other forms of the game around the world,” De Villiers was quoted as saying on Cricinfo recently.
“I can’t keep playing 10-11 months a year and keep being sharp after 15 years of international cricket. This kind of tournament, I’m playing every now and then, every 2-3 months.”
But imagine a Proteas top five of Amla, De Kock, Du Plessis, De Villiers and Duminy?
Van der Dussen could even slot in at No 3 to give him more time to build an innings, which would see Duminy at No 6.
That would take some of the pressure off a youngster like Andile Phehlukwayo at No 7 as well.
The Proteas have more than enough armoury in the bowling ranks, but can they score enough runs to be title contenders?
They would’ve had a better chance of doing that with AB de Villiers in the line-up. Instead, the former captain is talking about his new app, and a new sunglasses endorsement on his social media channels...
Also, it was rather disappointing that Cricket South Africa were unable to reach a 50 percent transformation target, with just seven black players in the 15-man group.
CSA are one of the leading federations when it comes to providing equal playing opportunities, and fielding fully representative sides.
In that regard, paceman Anrich Nortje is somewhat fortunate to make the cut as an extra fast bowler, considering that Kagiso Rabada and company provide more than enough artillery.
Especially in England, another specialist batsman in Hendricks would’ve been a better option.
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.@ashfakmohamed