Popular analyst, commentator and columnist HD Ackerman feels that Farhaan Behardien is the answer to South Africa’s problems at No7 at the World Cup.
There’ll be a number of key facets of the Proteas game that will contribute to their potential success, among them the quality of the death bowling, the importance of AB de Villiers scoring consistently and heavily, Imran’s Tahir’s form, and so on.
However, I firmly believe that if they successfully resolve the troublesome and near chronic problem of the skill set they require their No 7 to have, the Proteas would be a far more formidable team, one certainly capable of breaking their World Cup title duck.
History will show the Proteas are at their most dangerous in ODI cricket when they have a highly competent all-rounder coming in at No 7. Lance Klusener excelled there, as did Shaun Pollock after him. For years, it wasn’t a serious issue for the Proteas because of Jacques Kallis’ exceptional all-round ability, but now it is. Recently, Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell have been trialled there, neither with the degree of success the team requires. They are skilled bowlers but their batting falls short at international level. I don’t think the answer lies in an all-rounder. We have to go with a specialist batsman and at this stage Farhaan Behardien is the best of a pretty short line of candidates for the role.
I’ve heard lots of criticism of him, most of it unjustified. He is a solid batsman who, I believe, can be very effective if his role is clearly defined. That role would be dictated by the match situation, but ideally it would be to keep rotating the strike to the powerful hitters in ahead of him, and then attempting to hit boundaries in the death overs to either win a match or assist in setting an imposing target. Jonty Rhodes did this exceptionally well for the Proteas in his time and I think Behardien has the potential to be that type of player for the Proteas.
The Proteas’ lower order was exposed too often on the tour of Australia, and having either McLaren or Parnell coming to the wicket in a 80-5 situation doesn’t inspire confidence. Having JP Duminy back will ease those worries, provided the selectors go with a 5,6,7 combination of Duminy, Miller and Behardien. Duminy and Behardien are also good enough with the ball to share some of the bowling workload and are both fine fielders.
The West Indies ODI series will reveal how close they are to finding a solution to the problem. Behardien is a short-term solution, but a very good one, and with the World Cup looming, there just isn’t time to look around for a player who has the potential to make the position his own for years to come. That search can resume after the tournament. Perhaps a batsman in domestic cricket will make a play for the role or a young all-rounder will emerge and exhibit Kallis-like ability with bat and ball – who knows? For now, though, the team has to maximise the resources at their disposal, and Behardien is an undervalued resource in the context of the problem in question.
Ackerman is a SuperSport commentator and analyist who played four Tests for South Africa and featured in 220 First-Class matches.
This column appears in the January-March issue of SA Cricket magazine, currently on sale.