AB de Villiers wants his workload managed better. Bringing back Quinton de Kock will be a start.
Some strange decisions have been made around team selections for the England series, but it’s time coach Russell Domingo showed some leadership and foresight to remedy the situation.
Domingo has three key issues to solve when it comes to the Test side and, unfortunately for him, he can’t wait until the England series is over to tackle them.
Firstly, AB de Villiers feels overworked and burdened by having to keep wicket in the longest format. He has stated publicly that he does not want to keep wicket, and yet the selectors have again asked him to fill the role, even though De Kock is fit and scoring runs.
It is clear that decisions are being driven by fear and desperation, a situation which was magnified by the series loss in India. South Africa were shell-shocked after losing 3-0 and their confidence, specifically the batsmen, hasn’t recovered yet.
De Villiers’ admission on Monday that he was concerned about his workload should serve as a warning to the team management that he clearly doesn’t want to keep. South Africa can’t afford to lose him as a player in Test or ODI cricket.
Since being dropped from the Test team, De Kock has done exactly what is expected of any batsman to regain his place – score runs.
De Kock smashed three hundreds on the South Africa A tour to India earlier this year. He scored two in the Triangular ODI series and one in the two unofficial Tests. He finished the Ram Slam T20 challenge as the leading run-scorer with 437 runs in 11 matches including three fifties.
A fifty for South Africa A against an England XI before the Boxing Day Test followed before De Kock further strengthened his case with 117 against the Cape Cobras in the Sunfoil Series.
In short, De Kock has done enough to earn a recall. He is the most talented batting wicketkeeper in the country and probably the only one who could play as a specialist batsman if he couldn’t keep wicket. They repeatedly backed him during a dismal World Cup campaign, so why not now?
Secondly, it seems like Dale Steyn is getting to an age now where injuries are becoming more frequent. It’s not surprising, considering he has carried the bowling attack for the last six years and since making his debut in 2004 has missed very little Test cricket.
He needs to be managed better. Risking bowling him in the rest of the Kingsmead Test is unnecessary considering the best South Africa can hope for is a draw. They need Steyn fit for the rest of the series. He is struggling with stiffness in his shoulder, but considering there is only two days between the first and second Test, Steyn needs to be given enough time to completely recover and give himself a chance of playing at Newlands.
Thirdly, Hashim Amla’s captaincy has been called into question. Predictable, since his team has been performing badly, but there is no way Amla can be relieved from the captaincy in the middle of a big series against England.
In any case, giving the captaincy to AB de Villiers is not an option since he wants to lessen his workload, not add to it. The only other candidate is Faf du Plessis, who himself is struggling for runs.
Amla has gone 10 innings without scoring fifty or more, but Graeme Smith once went 15 innings without scoring a fifty. During that time South Africa lost an away series to Australia 2-0, a home series against the same opponents 3-0 before turning things around against New Zealand, winning a three-match series 2-0 in South Africa.
Amla should not be thrown under the bus at the first sign of trouble. He scored hundreds against Sri Lanka and the West Indies as captain; his slump in form can’t last forever.
The tough questions are already being asked and the first Test isn’t even finished. Some serious answers will need to be given, starting with bringing back De Kock as soon as possible.