After Hashim Amla’s resignation, SACricketmag.com looks at the three candidates who could replace him in the long term.
AB de Villiers
He wanted this all along. The decision to have him take over for the last two Tests against England is an obvious one and to give him the responsibility in the long run even more so. De Villiers was a front-runner to take over from Graeme Smith 18 months ago but lost out to Amla, who made a u-turn regarding his availability. There are several reasons to give De Villiers the reigns full-time.
Firstly, he wants it, more than Amla ever did. Secondly, he has grown as captain of the ODI side and demands the respect of teammates and opponents alike. Thirdly, he has shown that being captain doesn’t affect his batting in the 50-over format. With Quinton de Kock back in the setup as wicketkeeper, De Villiers’ much talked about workload has already improved. Being captain also guarantees his availability in Tests after rumours of his possible retirement recently surfaced. – Kobus Pretorius
Faf du Plessis
Du Plessis stands close on the shoulder of the front-runner, and indeed, could benefit greatly with a season as De Villiers’ No 2. But if the opportunity was presented, Du Plessis would rise to the occasion. He has captaincy experience, leading the T20 side since 2012 with a 15-11 win ratio. The 31-year-old has withdrawn from the ‘angry young man’ persona of his youth and from the moment he scored a century on Test debut, in that defiant stand against Australia, has shown growing maturity and foresight. He is intelligent, articulate and exudes confidence.
The Affies product has since racked up another three centuries and six fifties in his 28 matches and averages a healthy 42.3, a figure which has come down recently due to his batting difficulties, which for the purposes of this debate, we regard as temporary. If there is a concern, it is that his batting is too conservative, that he needs to become aggressive, but from a captaincy point of view, he is developing an attacking frame of mind, born of the T20. There is much to be said for a solid man as an anchor in the middle order. – Mark Salter
Probably the least likely of the three candidates to take the reins if we’re talking hierarchy, but on paper, he certainly has a case. At 28 years old, he’s three years younger than the other two, and if the selectors have a five-year plan in mind, he would be the most logical option.
The problem for the Proteas is, there are lots of players not guaranteed their place at the moment, but Elgar has become one of the constants; he will be the most experienced opening batsman for the side in the foreseeable future, and he has some runs to back that up, too. He’s the only opener to have scored a century for the Proteas in the last two years, and he has three to his name.
To add to his case, he has a bit of experience captaining at national level, having led the South Africa A side in a triangular series featuring India and Australia back in August last year. However, this should probably be seen in context, as he lost all three matches he skippered, and averaged 32 with the bat at a disappointing strike rate of 63. He does have that experience under his belt, though, so the selectors clearly saw him as someone with leadership potential. – Tom Sizeland
Of course, there is the option of Cricket SA taking their time and resisting the urge to appoint a new permanent captain as soon as the current series is over. There is plenty of distraction in the limited-overs schedule and the T20 World Cup and the next time South Africa play Test cricket is in August, against New Zealand.
The option would therefore be to invite applications and conduct interviews and presentations and appoint the new man long-term. – Gary Lemke