In the first instalment of a two-part series, SA Cricket magazine’s writers pick their best post-isolation Proteas ODI XI.
JON CARDINELLI: While the Proteas have never won a World Cup, they have often dominated the 50-over game in the period between global tournaments. Over the past 28 years, South Africa has produced a host of excellent players. I found it difficult to settle on a Best XI, and particularly on a best top six.
Enough stalling. I’ve gone with Quinton de Kock and Herschelle Gibbs as my opening pair. It’s a selection based on the players’ ability to dominate the new ball and on the fact that I’ve backed a couple of ‘anchors’ in the middle order. Graeme Smith, who was a more consistent and valuable player in the five-day game, misses out completely.
Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis are two of the best cricketers that South Africa has ever produced. Some continue to insist that measured maestros such as Amla and Kallis were better suited to Test cricket, and yet the players’ career stats – and a host of game-changing innings – indicate that the duo played a key role in the ODI cause.
The Affies boys round out my top six. Years from now, cricket fans will look at AB de Villiers’ stats (9,427 runs at an average of 54.17 as well as a strike rate of 101.27) and recognise the South African as one of the all-time greats of the era. Those of us who witnessed De Villiers’ otherworldly combination of talent, innovation and determination first-hand will remember him as a one of a kind performer.
Faf du Plessis was – and still is – a master of the measured ODI knock. While he’s often been tasked with steering South Africa out of difficult positions, he has the ability to accelerate toward the end of an innings.
Quinton de Kock – rather than De Villiers, the all-important batsman – is my preferred wicketkeeper in this XI.
GARY LEMKE: Left-right, left-right. One way to get the bowlers off their lines and lengths in one-day cricket is for the batsmen to keep rotating the strike. Extras have often proven the difference between winning and losing tight matches and with anything going down legside, a wide is added and extra ball has to be bowled. Therefore, I have to go with Quinton de Kock and Herschelle Gibbs at the top of the order. Both are instinctive players and will punish anything loose.
The ‘good’ thing about this opening pair is that they won’t waste deliveries getting in, if they were to get out they haven’t taken time out the game.
The biggest strike rates in South Africa’s ODI history of those who have played 100-plus matches belong to AB de Villiers (101.27), David Miller (100.62) and De Kock (94.84). All three make my top six. As an aside, people who have ridiculed Miller have done so on the basis of expectation. In 132 ODIs he averages 40.38 at over a run a ball. That’s good enough for me.
So, I’d go De Kock and Gibbs as that left-right-hander opening combination, with Hashim Amla at No 3. Only De Villiers averages higher than him in ODI cricket. At No 4 I’d have De Villiers, Jacques Kallis at No 5 – that’s where he batted in the famous ‘438’ game – and at No 6 I’ve gone for Miller.
WADE PRETORIUS: Get your popcorn out because here we go. I may have to question my own sanity after this but after having gone for Herschelle Gibbs in my Test XI albeit down the order at No 6, I can’t make space for him in my ODI side. The reason? Jacques Kallis must be at three.
That leaves Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla to open with AB de Villiers at four. My rationale is that both Kallis and De Villiers should be given as many balls as possible to face and it would be criminal to have AB360 in at 5. Amla’s place is guaranteed after he was fastest to 2,000 (40 innings), 3,000 (57 innings), 4,000 (81 innings) and 5,000 (101 innings) in ODI cricket.
So my order so far is De Kock, Amla, Kallis and AB. At five is Faf du Plessis – who currently averages 48-plus with a strike rate a shade under 90. My wild card, if you want to call it, is batting Lance Klusener at six. Again, not only does he tick enough boxes (averaged over 40 when Gibbs did not) and this promotion up the order will give him time to get his eye in before exploding into seventh gear.
CRAIG LEWIS: Quinton de Kock, Herschelle Gibbs, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis are all players that I simply cannot leave out of any ODI Dream Team selection. Quinny will also be the man who does the job behind the stumps for me.
It’s a bit tricky to settle on who should slot in at No 6, but there’s no ways I’m not including my all-time favourite South African cricketer, Jonty Rhodes. Almost just for his energy in the field, you have to pick him in a hypothetical Proteas ODI XI.
JONHENRY WILSON: An all-time Proteas ODI XI is flawed without a captain, unless he is going to feature among the bowlers – Shaun Pollock, for instance. Graeme Smith, therefore is the first pick. He did enough at the top of the ODI order to warrant selection in this hypothetical XI ahead of Quinton de Kock.
The prolific Hashim Amla is the obvious choice to open alongside Smith. Predominantly an opener, Herschelle Gibbs spent more than a fifth of his 248 ODIs at third, fourth and fifth position in the batting order. He’s in at three here. Fourth is Jacques Kallis and fifth for AB de Villiers – another two indisputable choices.
The sixth and final batting berth goes to JP Duminy, whose part-time spin cracks him the nod ahead of Faf du Plessis, as the rest of this XI isn’t going to have any finger-spinners.
ANDRE HUISAMEN: Craig Lewis did my job for me here in terms of the top six. Having given Graeme Smith’s ODI record much thought and toyed around with Quinton de Kock‘s spot in this team, the wicketkeeper simply can’t bat in any other position than at the top of the order. Trying to select as much an aggressive team as possible, Herschelle Gibbs‘ spot in my XI can also not be doubted.
With more than 8,000 runs in this format, Hashim Amla has to be my No 3, with the legendary Jacques Kallis at four. No person in this world can select an ODI all-time team without including AB de Villiers, while the flying Jonty Rhodes completes my top six.
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