Former Proteas spinner PAT SYMCOX picks his South African 15-man World Cup squad… and he believes the team have what it takes to win the showpiece event.
With South Africa having secured a clean sweep in the five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka, attention will now turn to World Cup preparation and picking the 15-man squad to travel to the UK.
I was blessed to have played in one World Cup and was a national selector for another tournament. I understand the accompanying pressures of tournament cricket and how crucial it is to select a well-balanced squad for the prestigious event. The 2019 World Cup will be staged in England and Wales from May, and the conditions in the north are very different to Southern Africa and the subcontinent.
As a selector, I always start with the game I need to win in the final and what team I would pick. Thereafter, I slot in the players I would like to have in case my first-choice starters aren’t available.
In terms of my first pick, the question is, should Hashim Amla be in the side? I believe you can’t buy experience down at the local grocery store. You would have to be a brave man to leave Amla out of any World Cup team, because he is capable of kicking off against anybody. He is a calming influence in the side, and I would want him to be padding up and walking out to bat in the World Cup final.
In terms of our second opener, Quinton de Kock is an obvious pick because he is a star for South Africa.
For my money, the No 3 spot is a race between Aiden Markram and Reeza Hendricks. It’s not that I think Hendricks lacks talent, but I feel that if it was a World Cup final against India at Lords and I had to choose one, my gut pick would be Markram. He is very talented and is a player for the present and the future. He often gives his wicket away when he shouldn’t, but that’s part and parcel of learning the game. In terms of his technique, I foresee him performing well in the UK conditions.
To stabilise the middle order, I would select skipper Faf du Plessis to bat at No 4. Meanwhile, I have no doubt in my mind that the most exciting batsman in world cricket at the moment in the middle order is David Miller, and he would occupy the No 5 spot.
As far as No 6 is concerned, the player has to be able to fulfil two roles. He needs to finish matches for you and bat through to the end. He also needs to withstand scoreboard pressure, knock it around, and at the same time be able to clear the boundary. For me, the experienced JP Duminy fits the bill.
He has been out of it for a while through injury, but he has looked to be in form on his return, and boasts the experience to marshal the middle order. Over and above his batting, he gives South Africa the second option as a spinner with the ball that goes away from the right-hander.
As far as the No 7 spot is concerned, for me, it falls to an all-rounder. Right now, it’s clear that Andile Phehlukwayo is best suited to the role. He looks to have come of age and gets on with his game. He has played really well in the Sri Lanka series and brings something to the party in both his disciplines.
From No 8 the bowlers come to the fore. Kagiso Rabada is the fifth-ranked ODI bowler in the world and has to be in the mix. The same can be said for Dale Steyn. If Steyn is 100% fit, running in and swinging the ball away at 140km/h, I’d want him in my first XI.
Lungi Ngidi has formed a really good partnership with Rabada, and I think he is up for it now. He has trimmed down and it’s evident that Ottis Gibson working with him is starting to bear fruit. He is tall, boasts good pace and swings the ball. For me, Rabada and Ngidi are a great new-ball partnership.
Imran Tahir is the other bowler who’s in form, well-respected around the world and needs to play.
I recognise that my team has a long tail. Unfortunately, the Proteas aren’t blessed with many bowlers who can bat. In the past we were spoiled for choice with the likes of Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock, who were both top all-rounders. Back then, there was depth in terms of bowlers that could bat.
In terms of my four squad players, I would pick two extra batsmen, a bowler and an all-rounder. It may be a left-field call, but I would select Dean Elgar as an out-and-out batsman who can bowl some spin. Meanwhile, Rassie van der Dussen comes into play as he can bat at three, four or five and possesses a good temperament.
I would pick a second specialist spinner in Tabraiz Shamsi due to the fact that the ball can turn in the UK. In terms of a back-up all-rounder, Chris Morris would be my go-to guy. Morris has fallen out of favour, and I don’t think the selectors will pick him, but that’s not to say that I don’t like him. If it is his day, I believe he can win you a game with the bat and the ball.
My Proteas XI
1) Hashim Amla
2) Quinton de Kock
3) Aiden Markram
4) Faf du Plessis (c)
5) David Miller
6) JP Duminy
7) Andile Phehlukwayo
8) Kagiso Rabada
9) Dale Steyn
10) Lungi Ngidi
11) Imran Tahir
Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix