The Proteas desperately need a bowling all-rounder to fill Morne Morkel’s void in the World Cup XI.
Morkel bowed out with dignity. The lanky speedster finished with 188 and 309 wickets in his ODI and Test career respectively.
However, with the rise of Lungi Ngidi, Morkel’s relevance began to wane. However, it’s not a direct replacement for Morkel that is the issue. It’s the lack of experience in the attack that is worrying, especially leading into arguably the most important World Cup campaign in the Proteas’ history.
Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis pick themselves in the batting lineup – just like Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Imran Tahir in the bowling department – but it’s the sixth and seventh positions that are a cause for concern.
The Proteas could go three ways with regard to selection: six batsmen and five bowlers; seven batsmen and four bowlers; or six batsmen, an all-rounder and four bowlers. In all three scenarios, I see the Proteas struggling.
If the Proteas select David Miller, JP Duminy or Heinrich Klaasen in the No 6 spot, they are two bowlers short. If they opt for Duminy and Muller or Klaasen in six and seven, they are one bowler short. Playing an all-rounder and a bowler, or two all-rounders, with the current squad is not an option, based on inexperience alone.
With Steyn out injured and an asterisk on his return date, the Proteas don’t have a bowler who can complete 10 overs of either Steyn or Morkel’s quality. Rabada is our only world-class bowler. Ngidi has the potential but will play in his first complete summer tour in the 2018-19 season.
The domestic scene has not produced many quality seam options. Junior Dala and Beuran Hendricks are the only seamers worth mentioning, but it’s blatantly obvious that they cannot replace the quality and experience that Morkel could have offered.
A world-class all-rounder would be perfect. All the top ODI sides have one: India, the most balanced side and favourites for the competition, have Hardik Pandya; hosts, England, have Ben Stokes and Australia have Mitchell Marsh.
The Proteas’ options are Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius.
South Africa, however, need a third bowler who can complete 10 overs. Morkel completed his 10 overs 43 times in his 117-match career. Phehlukwayo (4), Morris (7) and Pretorius (4) played 71 ODIs between them and only completed 10-over spells 15 times. The Proteas can definitely complete 30 overs but what happens to the other 20?
Philander is an option to look at but with only 30 ODIs to his name – his last match being in 2015 – the 32-year-old is undoubtedly rusty in limited overs.
There’s a serious issue brewing and it worries me that our white-ball series itinerary might be too late for us to find a risk-free solution.
Probable Proteas squad: 1. Quinton de Kock, 2. Hashim Amla, 3. Faf du Plessis, 4. Aiden Markram, 5. AB de Villiers, 6. David Miller/JP Duminy, 7. Chris Morris, 8. Andile Phehlukwayo, 9. Kagiso Rabada, 10. Lungi Ngidi, 11. Imran Tahir, 12. Junior Dala, 13. Heinrich Klaasen, 14. Tabraiz Shamsi, 15. Dwaine Pretorius/Khaya Zondo
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images