The Proteas should pick Morne Morkel ahead of an all-rounder for their opener against Sri Lanka.
The question you really need to be asking yourself here is: Do we need someone who can bat at No 9? The logical answer is no. When your side are seven wickets down, the damage should already have been done by your top six and perhaps aided by your No 7 and No 8.
So then the question you have to ask is: Are Wayne Parnell and Andile Phehlukwayo better bowlers than Morne Morkel? The simple answer – albeit they offer different abilities with the ball – is no.
Russell Domingo put Morkel’s place in the side in doubt with a candid ‘having Morne there might strengthen our bowling, but it gives us more of a tail not having the three all-rounders’. This is fair, but then again, while most sides can boast three all-rounders in their side, South Africa don’t have a batting all-rounder.
England have Ben Stokes, New Zealand have Corey Anderson, Bangladesh have Shakib Al Hasan and their opponents, Sri Lanka, have Angelo Mathews. You could argue that JP Duminy is a batting all-rounder, but he’s only bowled 15 overs from his last six limited-overs matches. The Proteas do, however, have a rich wealth of bowling all-rounders in the squad. But it means they stand to leave out the most proven wicket-taker in the squad.
Of course, it’s not a straightforward call for the selectors to make. Parnell or Phehlukwayo would be making way for Morkel, and as erratic as Parnell can be, he bowled well with the new ball against England and he’s been in good touch for Kent. Phehlukwayo has an appetite for the big matches and is the only ‘bag of tricks’ bowler in the side. But you need wickets, and Morkel is a wicket-taker. And the experience in big tournaments to boot.
His record speaks for itself, with a career average of 24.68, and while stats are often a dangerous yardstick, he has taken 68 wickets from 40 matches at an average of 23.36 against the Proteas’ Group B opponents. He’s still got his pace, and if the recent England series is anything to go by, the short ball isn’t going to be the easiest to swat away in this tournament.
Morkel’s workload and fitness after coming back from a long layoff should no longer be an issue, because he had a decent Test series and he’s got plenty of overs under his belt in the limited-overs format.
Pick your best bowlers … I don’t believe you should be sacrificing a wicket-taker for an all-rounder at No 9. Besides, it’s not long before we start calling Kagiso Rabada a bowling all-rounder too.
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