South Africa’s selectors and coach Russell Domingo have some tough decisions to make regarding team selection as the Proteas prepare to face Pakistan in Auckland on Saturday, writes Kobus Pretorius.
AB de Villiers said after Tuesday’s big victory over Ireland that no player in the World Cup squad is guaranteed a place in the team.
South Africa have had their fare share of injuries thus far, with Vernon Philander and JP Duminy missing the last two games against the West Indies and Ireland.
Their replacements, Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw, came in and did very well in those games, strengthening their case for a regular spot in the starting XI.
Abbott has taken six wickets, two against the West Indies and four against Ireland, including career best figures of 4-21 in eight overs, while Rossouw has scored back-to-back fifties.
These performances have suddenly cast doubt over Quinton de Kock’s continued selection, with the wicketkeeper-batsman under pressure to come good with the bat after poor returns of 7, 7, 12 and 1 in the first four pool matches against Zimbabwe, India, West Indies and Ireland respectively.
There appears to be little faith outside the team in Farhaan Behardien’s ability to fill the problematic number seven role in the batting line-up. It is still uncertain how effective he can be, because he didn’t get a chance to bat against Zimbabwe and Ireland, didn’t play against India and scored 10 not out against the West Indies.
De Kock’s saving grace may be the fact that the team management and, to a large degree De Villiers himself, will be reluctant to burden himself with taking over the wicketkeeping responsibilities as well. De Villiers is the team’s best batsman, a great fielder and will have to constantly make sure he stays ahead of the over-rate in every game as to avoid a one-match suspension.
After De Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Rossouw were used as bowling options against Ireland, Behardien seems the one most likely to make way when JP Duminy, who can bowl 10 overs of spin, returns.
It will then be a decision between Abbott and Philander, who can also bat.
‘To have as many players as possible in good form at the tournament is key,’ said De Villiers.
‘We’ve got a few players now who have shown they are in good form. No-one is guaranteed is spot moving forward. We’ll look at the conditions and the team we play, and make sure the balance is right so that we can pick the best possible XI to get a result.’