As South Africa get their tour of Bangladesh underway on Sunday, Kobus Pretorius picks five things to look out for during the T20 and ODI series.
1. Just how good is Aaron Phangiso?
Eyebrows were raised when the 31-year-old spinner was included in the Test squad ahead of Imran Tahir and Dane Piedt. Phangiso is widely regarded as an ODI specialist but has failed to nail down a regular place in the team. He was the only player not to get a game at the World Cup, but suddenly is regarded as a Test option despite having a poor first-class record. It will be interesting to see if Phangiso is backed to play for the Test side. If not, this will just be another example of window dressing by Cricket South Africa. If there was ever a time to see just how good Phangiso can be, it would be on the spin friendly pitches in Bangladesh.
2. The all-rounder conundrum
Ryan McLaren is back, Wayne Parnell never left but all eyes will be on the David Wiese and Chris Morris. Wiese will only have two T20s to enhance his reputation should he get picked, while Morris has also been included in the one-day side and should get an opportunity in the absence of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander. The Proteas need to settle on the No 7 batting position in the ODI batting line-up and this tour is a good place to start. Whoever it is, they should be backed for the next two tours at least.
3. The rise of Kagiso Rabada
Rabada has been identified as the future of the South African bowling attack and he has the talent and hunger for knowledge to fulfil that promise. Picked in all three squads for the tour, he is sure to get some game time in the shorter formats. However, it may be worth giving Rabada a chance in one of the two Tests to see how he goes. With series against India and England later in the year, it will make sense to give the youngster a taste of the purest form of the game. At 20 there should be no rush to get him involved too soon, but slowly exposing him to international cricket seems like the smartest way to go about it.
4. Expect some experimentation
The official line from the South African camp is that they take the tour very seriously and can’t afford to underestimate Bangladesh at home after their recent successes. Having said that, the team management are still expected to give a few youngsters a chance while remaining competitive on the field. Winning the first two ODI games will make it easier to make wholesale changes for the third one, but if it goes down to the wire Russell Domingo and his selectors may be tempted to play it safe. They shouldn’t. There isn’t a better opportunity down the line to blood youngsters, which means getting combinations right for the busy season ahead should be a priority. Rather now than against teams like New Zealand or India who South Africa face next.
5. Wayne Parnell’s future is on the line
Even without knowing who is going to play, it seems clear that Wayne Parnell’s free ride in the national set-up is slowly drawing to a close. He has some serious competition now with Morris, Wiese and McLaren knocking on the door. If that doesn’t motivate Parnell to start producing the performances many think he is capable of, nothing will. He has undeniable talent, but has always lacked consistency. However many chances he gets on this tour, he needs to use all of them to convince Domingo and the fans that he can still add value to the team. There is no shortage of replacements if he can’t.