• Klaasen to captain new-look T20I team

    Heinrich Klaasen will captain a second-string Proteas squad, featuring five uncapped players, for the upcoming three-match T20I series in Pakistan.

    Cricket South Africa on Tuesday announced that most players in the Test squad currently in Pakistan will return home, following the two red-ball fixtures as part of a Covid-19 safety strategy.

    The idea is to ensure a safe travel and quarantine environment for the Test players, who will immediately begin their preparation in South Africa for the Test series against Australia in April.

    Dwaine Pretorius, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lutho Sipamla and George Linde will remain in Pakistan to meet up with the incoming T20I squad.

    Okuhle Cele, Ryan Rickleton, Nandre Burger and Jacques Snyman, however, received their maiden call-ups to the Proteas, while Glenton Stuurman is also back in the set-up, having fully recovered from a left quadriceps muscle injury.

    David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Reeza Hendricks and Jon-Jon Smuts are some of the more experienced players in the group, hoping to bounce back from the recent 3-0 T20I series defeat by England.

    ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has compelled sporting bodies to find innovative ways of ensuring tours and sporting events take place as planned or with as little disruption to revised plans as possible,’ said CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith.

    ‘We are not exempt from that, and have had to do a bit of outside-of-the-box thinking to ensure that we are fully prepared for a home Test tour against Australia, while having an exciting T20 series to compete in, in Pakistan.’

    The management group is also expected to split up with assistant coach Enoch Nkwe in line to oversee the duration of the T20I series.

    ‘We’re in the final stages of concluding plans for how the coaching and support staff will also be managed for the two tours. It’s an example of the measures that some cricket nations will have to put in place to ensure that they can squeeze in more than one tour in a period of three or four months, while fulfilling Covid-19 protocol obligations,’ added Smith.

    The series will present the opportunity to a number of players to show their worth with the T20 World Cup on the horizon this year.

    Convenor of selectors Victor Mpitsang added that they are excited to see a couple of new faces have a go on the international stage.

    ‘A lot will be said about the inexperience of this team, but the selection panel and I believe we have a special group of players in this team that will do us proud in Pakistan. It’s a big year for T20 international cricket, with the World Cup coming up and this is the ideal opportunity for youngsters to put their hands up and grab opportunities, however they may come.

    ‘We are excited to see what these youngsters will do under what won’t be the easiest of conditions, but more than that, we as a panel are looking forward to seeing the more experienced players step up as leaders and take ownership of the team.

    ‘We fully support Heinrich Klaasen with the captaincy role. He is not new to leading a team and has done so throughout his career. We know he is more than up for the challenge and will represent South Africa well in Pakistan,’ said Mpitsang.

    Proteas T20I squad: Heinrich Klaasen (captain, Momentum Multiply Titans), Nandre Burger (Six Gun Grill Cape Cobras), Okuhle Cele (Momentum Multiply Titans), Junior Dala (Momentum Multiply Titans), Bjorn Fortuin (Imperial Lions), Reeza Hendricks (Imperial Lions), George Linde (Six Gun Grill Cape Cobras), Janneman Malan (Six Gun Grill Cape Cobras), David Miller (Hollywoodbets Dolphins), Andile Phehlukwayo (Hollywoodbets Dolphins), Dwaine Pretorius (Imperial Lions), Ryan Rickleton (Imperial Lions), Tabraiz Shamsi (Momentum Multiply Titans), Lutho Sipamla (Imperial Lions), Jon-Jon Smuts (Warriors), Pite van Biljon (VKB Knights), Glenton Stuurman (Warriors), Jacques Snyman (VKB Knights).

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    Andre Huisamen