Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir are both still available for selection in T20I cricket despite having retired from the longer formats of the game, but their role in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year still remains unclear.
Steyn has been included in the squad to face England in three T20Is, but Tahir has been left to aid the Dolphins’ cause in domestic cricket.
There is perhaps solid reasoning behind this, with the Proteas knowing what Tahir brings to the party while valuing Steyn not only for his bowling but also his mentorship.
Tahir taking a break allows Tabraiz Shamsi to perhaps get the prolonged run in the team he needs to be able to be impactful in both white-ball formats.
The other spinners in that group are left-armer Bjorn Fortuin and relative part-timer Jon-Jon Smuts, so if the Proteas could have just one veteran bowler it makes sense for it to be Steyn.
Lungi Ngidi, Beuran Hendricks, Sisanda Magala and Andile Phehlukwayo should all benefit from having Steyn around.
When it comes to the T20 World Cup, though, it is tough to imagine any of the crop of young spinners having the same impact as Tahir.
With the Proteas under fire for failing to plan for the future team, management might be reluctant to invest too much time and energy in two players who likely won’t play for very long after the World Cup.
Tahir has shown through his domestic form that he remains up for the contest, but his age puts the Proteas in a pickle.
A Proteas team with a fit Steyn and Tahir would stand a much better chance of lifting the trophy and ending South Africa’s long wait for a piece of major cricketing silverware.
Management will need to weigh that against the value of giving squad berths to players who have more years of service to give to the national team.
Tahir and Steyn shouldn’t be given places based on their past heroics or sentimentality, but if they are at their best, the Proteas should consider making room for the veterans.
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