Andrew Hudson, Russell Domingo and AB de Villiers cannot claim to be on the same page about berths in the World Cup squad.
They need to find common ground before this month’s series in New Zealand and December’s eight limited-overs fixtures in Australia all but finalise the 15.
Where Hudson has insisted one or two spots for February’s showpiece in Australasia are on offer, De Villiers has effectively contradicted, intimating the best squad – specific to conditions – is currently on tour. Domingo, meanwhile, has waxed lyrical about being a ‘settled unit’. The uncommunicated conflicts are apparent.
For a nation robbed by rain in 1992, outgunned by West Indies in 1996, denied by Allan Donald’s run-out in 1999, throttled by embarrassed skipper Shaun Pollock’s miscalculation in 2003 and grossly underprepared in 2007 and 2011, there is effectively no room for error – particularly in personnel – this time.
While criticism of the burgeoning Rilee Rossouw would admittedly be harsh a mere two ducks and a couple of unfulfilled starts into a promising career, one can’t see space for another left-hander – other than the tried and tested JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock and David Miller.
The Proteas have quickly established life after former opener Graeme Smith by blooding and nurturing de Kock at the top of the order, but the over-eagerness to fashion a role for Rossouw in a position occupied by the veteran Jacques Kallis for more than a decade isn’t proving as successful.
Seamer Kyle Abbott is another doubt. The lanky right-armer has strung together a mere six ODIs across a punctuated 20 months in international cricket and, detrimentally, is very much viewed as a reserve seamer by Domingo, De Villiers and managerial company. Granted, a pace attack completed by the services of the dominant Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander is difficult to manipulate for the sake of opportunity, but Abbott must be backed as a genuine limited-overs option or left to Test match cricket.
South African cricket, graciously, is blessed with abundant talent on the fringes of international selection and in the depths of domestic competition. The Twenty20 International squad attests to this, with all-rounder David Wiese, fast bowler Marchant de Lange and more a mere phone call away from ODI promotion.
The fit-again Chris Morris and Farhaan Behardien, too, are waiting in the wings. There is only space for 15 in the squad and 11 on the day, of course, but Rossouw and Abbott – in particular – arguably shouldn’t conclude those numbers. Both, indeed, have big futures and are central to the bigger picture. But, in isolation, the World Cup frame shouldn’t feature neither Rossouw nor Abbott.