Late last year, at a Cape Town Blitz media conference shortly before the start of the Mzansi Super League, Ashwell Prince stated that George Linde featured in conversation among the national selection panel in 2015-16.
Prince was a national selector at the time three years ago, alongside Errol Stewart, Linda Zondi and Hussein Manack. He resigned in September 2016 – and has since become head coach of the Cape Cobras and Cape Town Blitz.
Some 28 months since those quiet conversations with Zondi and company, Prince has the freedom to publicly back Linde for inclusion in the Proteas’ plans. While his statements now might be labelled franchise propaganda, there is definitive substance in suggestion that the Cape Cobras all-rounder graduate to international cricket.
Linde was impressive in the 2015-16, but 2017-18 and particularly 2018-19 have genuinely unearthed talent that will likely result in Proteas inclusion later this year.
The timing of his fine stretch of form is especially important, as the veteran JP Duminy’s cricketing future remains in the balance – and leg-spinner Imran Tahir plots ODI retirement after the World Cup.
Perhaps the Proteas don’t have to fixate on a seam-bowling all-rounder at seventh position in the batting order. That position could be reserved for Linde, particularly if Duminy isn’t around to bowl a few overs – and a specialist spinner lacks support, or hasn’t been chosen at all. Linde’s multi-faceted presence would open options, arguably far more than, say, seaming all-rounders Dwaine Pretorius, Chris Morris or Wiaan Mulder.
A relevant example, akin to Linde’s offering, is Robin Peterson. Chosen as the XI’s lone spinner or secondary to Tahir, Johan Botha and others, Peterson often bowled less than the 10-over allotment – and complemented the role with the ball with the bat. On other occasions, he delivered all 10 – and contributed with the bat. Sometimes secondary, other times primary to Dane Piedt, Linde is effectively doing the same for the Cobras.
Like Peterson did for the Proteas, left-armer Linde offers dynamic variation in turning the ball away from right-handers. This will definitely be required when Tahir leaves, as fellow left-arm finger spinner Keshav Maharaj is largely being reserved for Test match cricket – and left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi’s variation won’t be consistent enough.
‘In order for you to be successful, you have to read the batsman and the wicket well. My consistency has now improved and I can now frustrate batsmen who cannot pierce the field and then I force them into fatal errors,’ said Linde recently.
The Cobras, indeed, are blessed with an ambitious, thinking spin-bowling all-rounder, which the Proteas will require when Tahir exits – and that number seven position conundrum still hasn’t been solved.