Positional and personnel preferences have been a predictable theme ahead of this week’s second Test in Pune. Senuran Muthusamy, however, has risen above the obvious.
Hashim Amla has suggested Faf du Plessis move to fourth in the batting order, while others want Quinton de Kock to occupy that position. This debate, which effectively centres around affording the Proteas’ form batsmen more time at the crease, must extend to Muthusamy too.
He, like fellow spinners Dane Piedt and Keshav Maharaj, was ineffective with the ball in last week’s series opener. His prowess with the bat, though, must be acknowledged as one of the few highlights of the tourists’ demise in Visakhapatnam.
‘You can see technically he is very sound against spin which is something he has worked really hard on. Batting in that No 7 or 8 position is always something we are looking for as a team,’ said captain Faf du Plessis of Muthusamy’s debut.
‘He batted with real maturity in both innings and is making it hard for us to leave him out of the second Test. He is putting the numbers on the scoreboard, which is what we want.’
Muthusamy’s early understanding and Du Plessis’ backing should necessitate promotion in the batting order – or at least empowerment to merely shepherd the tailenders.
Muthusamy’s willingness and ability to be comfortable with discomfort in typically sub-continental conditions evidently stretches beyond the humidity and nature of the pitch. This is a loyal franchise cricketer who has longed for international graduation, spent an extended period in India with South Africa A and is seemingly hungrier than others to succeed.
‘Obviously he bowls a bit as well, so that helps,’ added Du Plessis, which ostensibly shows the Proteas didn’t necessarily view him as a frontline spinner in Visakhapatnam. This was reiterated in the numbers – Muthusamy bowled a mere 18 overs to Maharaj’s 77 and Piedt’s 36.
The Dolphins star is, indeed, an all-rounder – but, more importantly, one with more of a batting inclination than, say, Vernon Philander or recent others such as Chris Morris or Andile Phehlukwayo. His proclivity for spin – with bat and ball – demonstrably counts for more in India than any other seaming all-rounder.
All of this is not to say Muthusamy must move up the order or bowl less or more. It does, however, showcase the genuine dynamism of the player, specific to the current conditions. It, too, increases the vulnerability of specialist batsman Theunis de Bruyn and Piedt for the rest of this series and England’s visit to South Africa later this year.
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