Conrad backs Stubbs to take key Proteas No 3 slot

Tristan Stubbs will take the Proteas forward as the No 3 batsman in their coming tour of the West Indies. | BackpagePix

Tristan Stubbs will take the Proteas forward as the No 3 batsman in their coming tour of the West Indies. | BackpagePix

Published Jul 9, 2024


Zaahier Adams

Shukri Conrad has never been afraid to make “the big calls”. Just ask former Test captain Dean Elgar.

But now the Proteas red-ball coach has unequivocally backed young Tristan Stubbs to take ownership of the crucial No 3 spot in the Test side for the foreseeable future. Stubbs auditioned for the role in the disastrous New Year’s Test against India, managing just 3 and 1 across his two debut innings.

It would, though, be farcical to judge the 23-year-old based on that performance due to the Newlands surface that was served up for the marquee Test of the home summer being absolutely diabolical.

After the Test, which lasted just five sessions – the shortest in terms of balls (642) in the history of the game – Conrad actually apologised to Stubbs “for giving him a debut on a wicket like this” and left him with the consoling message, “it is not going to get any more difficult than this”.

Stubbs will now have the opportunity to redeem himself on the forthcoming West Indies tour, which includes two Tests in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

“I think as it stands right now, I have an idea who bats at No 3, depending on conditions and balance of the team, it is more than likely that it will be Stubbs,” Conrad said yesterday.

The dashing right-hander has long enjoyed the challenge of red-ball cricket and showed his potential last season, under Conrad’s tutelage, when he returned from a South Africa A first-class tour to Sri Lanka as the highest run-scorer.

Equally, Stubbs struck a career-best triple century for the Warriors in the CSA 4-Day competition last season that highlighted his immense appetite for scoring big runs and desire to spend long periods of time at the crease.

“Unfairly, people have just seen him (Stubbs) as a white-ball specialist,” Conrad said.

“I think he has all the makings of a top-class No 3. Technically he is one of the best around. That's how highly I rate Tristan Stubbs.

“I know it’s different formats, but if you watched him closely at the T20 World Cup, the way he commanded his space and imprinted himself on games, I think Tristan’s going to be a helluva player.

“I think he is already. He is the type of player that I want at the top of the order.”

It certainly will be a major responsibility on the youngster’s shoulders, especially considering that Proteas legends such as Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, who were the previous incumbents of the first-drop position only after cementing their places in the Test side from the relative obscurity of the middle order.

“Some might say it’s a big call, but I certainly won’t be throwing someone in at the deep end and give him a task that I didn’t think he was capable of handling. Definitely not hanging him out to dry,” Conrad said.

“He will get a good run. He is one for the future. And I have always said I’ve always tried to keep one eye on the future of this Test squad. And in my mind, Tristan is definitely part of that.”

There is little doubt Conrad is looking beyond just this West Indies series, which does form part of the ICC World Test Championship Series, as he has also recalled Ryan Rickelton and handed the promising Matthew Breetzke a maiden Test call-up.

“Rickelton was always going to be part of the enlarged squad as the next batter up and the keeper that challenges Kyle Verreynne,” he said.

“Matt has obviously done really well domestically. He also gives us cover for various batting positions – he can open the batting and bat anywhere in the top order.

“He goes along as the extra batter that provides us with cover, and he knows that.”

Proteas Test squad for the West Indies: Temba Bavuma (capt), David Bedingham, Matthew Breetzke, Nandre Burger, Gerald Coetzee, Tony de Zorzi, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Dane Paterson, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Tristan Stubbs, Ryan Rickelton, Kyle Verreynne.