It seems like Vernon Philander and Cricket World Cups just don’t go together.
From the unwarranted selection controversy of the 2015 semi-final to being left out of the Proteas squad for the 2019 edition, Philander must wonder why he is continually overlooked in white-ball cricket.
And certainly the latest snub, where he lost out to Chris Morris in a late call-up after Anrich Nortje was ruled out with injury, will rankle some more.
Philander is in fine form at the moment, having performed well for the Cape Cobras in the CSA T20 Challenge.
His bowling ability has never been in question, and he took a decent 10 wickets in nine matches to be the sixth highest wicket-taker in the competition.
But it was his impressive big-hitting down the order that should’ve really made the Proteas selectors sit up and take notice.
He played a number of vital innings, and was fifth on the averages list, with a strike-rate of 153.60.
The main reason why Morris lost out to Nortje in the initial World Cup selection was due to his bowling problems, and nothing has changed in that regard.
While he is capable of producing the odd ‘unplayable’ spell, he generally concedes too many runs and doesn’t take enough wickets.
Added to that, his reputation as a boundary-hitting batsman late in the innings is also over-inflated.
In the ODI arena, Morris (34 matches) has an average of 19.65, with a strike-rate of 97.27, while Philander (30 matches) – who last played 50-over cricket in August 2015 – comes in 12.58 and 70.89.
But it is in the bowling stats where there is a significant difference between the two. In those 34 games, Morris has taken 35 wickets at an average of 40.42 and an economy rate of 5.61.
Philander boasts a record of 41 wickets in 30 games, at 24.04 and an economy of 4.62.
And in English conditions, and the fact that a specialist bowler in Nortje is being replaced, surely Philander would’ve been the better bet?
Even Rory Kleinveldt, who has been in excellent form with the ball and produced some crucial late-innings cameos with the bat for the Cobras, can count himself unlucky to miss out on the World Cup.
Morris hasn’t had much chance with the bat in the current IPL, with only 32 runs in six innings, while he has done better with the ball for the Delhi Capitals, taking 13 wickets to be placed 16th on the list headed by fellow Proteas Kagiso Rabada (25) and Imran Tahir (23).
But we all know that Morris’ T20 franchise form seldom matches his exploits in international cricket.
The Proteas selectors have certainly taken a gamble in opting for Morris to go to England, and will hope that they don’t rue leaving out Philander…@ashfakmohamed