The selectors made the right call by including Keshav Maharaj and Morné Morkel, as they don’t affect the continuity of the side.
Many probably wouldn’t have expected to see Maharaj and Morkel’s names appear in the Proteas squad to face England in their three-match ODI series and the Champions Trophy, but at the same time there wasn’t anything unusual about their call-ups.
They have effectively replaced Tabraiz Shamsi and Lungi Ngidi, for these were the players selected for the Proteas’ last two ODI series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Ngidi was extremely unlucky to be injured at that time (straining an abdominal muscle in the T20 series against Sri Lanka), but the reality is that he is young, uncapped and untested at the highest level. Now’s not the time to ‘give him a go’.
Morkel hasn’t played an ODI since the Tri-Nation series last June, but his return from injury in the Test set-up was a successful one, and with 108 ODIs’ worth of experience, and 181 wickets at an average of 24.60 to boot, he’s the out-and-out paceman that the side needs to accompany Kagiso Rabada.
Shamsi has been part of the set-up for the best part of a year now, but has found his opportunities limited. He’s an attacking spinner, which is always a gamble on the greener English pitches. In Imran Tahir the Proteas boast one of the best attacking spinners in the world, which rules out the need for Shamsi’s inclusion. Maharaj offers a bit more variety, in that his orthodox, left-arm finger spin has got the control to foil Tahir’s right-arm wrist-spinners. Maharaj is uncapped, but has had an excellent start in his Test career and has come off a good One Day Cup stint with the Dolphins.
This means that Aaron Phangiso must have come very close to a call-up. He played in the Tri-Nation series, was selected for the Australia series and did well when called upon. If you factor in Maharaj’s age (six years younger than Phangiso), and his recent form for club and country, his selection was a larger step in the right direction.
Considering the respective Kolpak moves of Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott, as well as Dale Steyn’s absence, the selectors have done well to maintain the continuity of the side without any massive alarm bells. JP Duminy is the only form concern, but he’s part of a winning formula and you can’t drop someone with his experience at this stage.
It will be interesting to see how Morkel fits into the equation. If he’s in the 1st XI come 3 June against Sri Lanka, the Proteas will have quite a long tail. The side pride themselves in their all-rounder stocks. They have four, in Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius and Wayne Parnell.
Should Morkel play, there will only be space for two of them. Morris is a certainty; the other selection becomes less clear. The selectors need to use that three-match stint against the English in May to be clear about their first-choice combinations in that 7-9 batting order going into the Champions Trophy.
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