The Proteas squad for next month’s three ODIs against England bears an awkward resemblance to what fans, pundits and critics alike wanted at the 2019 World Cup.
South Africa have not played an ODI in the seven months since a plighted World Cup campaign yielded just three wins and a lowly seventh-place finish.
Batsman Reeza Hendricks has rightfully been included this time, after being omitted in favour of the veteran Hashim Amla in the United Kingdom.
Wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne, too, has graduated to the ODI fold. Several schools of thought suggested he keep wicket and the hard-hitting Quinton de Kock play as a specialist batsman at the World Cup. This might materialise against England, especially after de Kock was named new ODI captain. The three-fold role of opening batsman, wicketkeeper and captain might be too much for even the unflappable de Kock.
Fast bowler Lungi Ngidi will hopefully last the entire series, rather than sustain an injury similar to that suffered at the World Cup. Management of his temperamental frame is on the agenda at Cricket South Africa’s ongoing fitness and conditioning camp in Pretoria.
Batsman David Miller will be under pressure in an order minus the retired Amla and JP Duminy and omitted Du Plessis. All three were at the World Cup, affording Miller the crutch of experienced team-mates. This time, he is the obvious senior statesman in the middle order. He must promptly lead by example amid the inexperience of Verreynne, Hendricks and others.
T20I cricket has historically served as a pipeline to ODI cricket for South Africa. Convenor of selectors Linda Zondi has often reiterated this. For the first time, this has been evidenced en masse.
Fast bowler Lutho Sipamla, all-rounder Jon-Jon Smuts, batsman Janneman Malan and spinner Bjorn Fortuin form almost a third of the 15-man squad. The inclusion of seamer Beuran Hendricks, who has played far more T20I than ODI cricket, increases that ratio.
The inclusion of seamer Sisanda Magala is also exemplary of a fluid pipeline. He has been earmarked for higher honours across an extended period. Solid consistency with the ball and fine athleticism in the field, despite a chunky frame, during the 2019 Mzansi Super League endorsed his progression. Like Smuts, Ngidi and wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, Magala will benefit from the improved fitness imposed by CSA’s conditioning camp.
This, indeed, is an ODI squad thoughtfully composed, albeit belatedly timed. If these 15 men go on to beat World Cup champions England, the composition of the squad for the 2019 World Cup will prove to be as dated now as seven months ago.
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