• Smith judgement haunts De Bruyn

    When Theunis de Bruyn got out cheaply on day five of the first Test against India earlier this year, Graeme Smith didn’t hold back in his criticism of the batsman. Now that Smith is the director of cricket, De Bruyn has been dropped from the Test team.

    Linda Zondi remains convenor of selectors, and therefore the decision to drop De Bruyn was ultimately his, but the makeup of the squad suggests Smith had issued some directives.

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    In October while working as a commentator and pundit during the series against India, Smith questioned De Bruyn’s state of mind.

    ‘I think this is a guy [De Bruyn] with a cluttered brain. There is a lot of stuff going on inside his head. It’s just about the fundamentals,’ he said.

    ‘It’s just about the basics of knowing that, before you get in, don’t look to cut – and don’t look to drive out of the rough. Look to play with the spin – these are the types of basics the South Africans have to work with.

    ‘De Bruyn, in particular, to me he scores a lot of runs at domestic level, but the minute he comes up it’s almost like his brain starts to clutter. His decision-making is an issue. He will look back on this match with disappointment, with the two shots he got out to.’

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    The middle-order batsman will have a chance to show that he can sort out his head after he was named in a strong South Africa A squad that will face England in a three-day warm-up match just before Christmas.

    It is somewhat surreal to witness a commentator’s words seemingly catch up with a player, but with an average of less than 20 after 12 Tests, De Bruyn could no longer justify his place in a team that desperately needs to improve its batting.

    De Bruyn has to prove that he has the mentality and resilience to fight his way back into the side – and who better to judge those aspects of his game than Smith?

    Mark Boucher

    The appointment of Smith as director of cricket and Mark Boucher as team director might leave some a little confused as to who is running the show. When it comes to the overall direction of the team, though, it seems Smith is willing to impose himself on selection matters if necessary.

    De Bruyn rejoined Boucher’s Titans at the beginning of the 2018-19 season where he has performed, but his franchise coach can’t afford to do him any favours. He will miss the fifth round of the Four-Day Challenge, but will have ample opportunity to fight his way back into the squad in the new year.

    The first Test squad of the Smith-Boucher era shows a desire to reward franchise performers, particularly those who have shown themselves to have a strong grasp of the game’s basics.

    Photo: Gallo Images

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