Ottis Gibson should turn to future prospects and pick the Proteas’ World Cup squad now.
In the past, South African selectors have focused on the present, picking teams who can win ODI series and build momentum by doing so. Come a major tournament, often with the No 1 ranking in tow, the Proteas bloom with confidence and on paper seem like they can beat any team in the world. Hopes are built up and then the infamous choke occurs, leaving management and superstars scratching their heads. What the Proteas always had in the past was an XI full of brilliant individuals, who on their day could single-handedly be the hero.
What the Proteas need is a cohesive team – an integrated combination of players who can put their egos aside and produce a victory by supporting each other on and off the field. Despite cricket being more of an individualistic sport, there are ways in which a team vibe can be created. If the team grows and ages together over the next two years, they will build a full understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses – allowing each player to use where they are strong to cover their partner’s vulnerabilities.
In cricket, players work in pairs, whether it be batsmen or bowlers, and the best asset to any partnership is an understanding with your teammate.
What Gibson needs to do now, is pick a team of the top youngsters and make an XI; then fill out the rest of the squad with South Africa’s best stars. He must allow the future generation to grow into a championship squad, while the current stalwarts keep fit, ready and injury-free, ready to provide X-factor when the occasion demands it.
See my XI and their ages below.
1. Quinton de Kock (24), 2. Aiden Markram (c) (23), 3. Raynard van Tonder (18), 4. Zubayr Hamza (22), 5. Jason Smith (23), 6. Leus du Plooy (22), 7.Wiaan Mulder (19), 8. Andile Phehlukwayo (21), 9. Kagiso Rabada (22), 10. Lungi Ngidi (21), 11. Bjorn Fortuin (22), 12. AB de Villiers (33), 13. Morne Morkel (33), 14. Hashim Amla (34), 15. Keshav Maharaj (27).
In this squad, you have leaders, match winners and young talents who have the temperament, confidence and maturity that have been crucial to their success. They are also all of similar age, which will aid them to grow – win or lose. Among them are experienced superstars – they could mentor these younger guys. Sounds like the perfect recipe to me.
Markram’s, Rabada’s, Phehlukwayo’s and Smith’s experiences are the keys to this side, having already won the U19 World Cup in 2014. They know what it takes and what it feels like to lift a trophy, but more importantly they have the skills to back it up. Rabada is already regarded as world class, while Markram is starting to turn heads at Test level, as well as in List-A matches for the Titans. Smith is an important all-rounder for the Cobras, and has the talent to fill the No 4 or 5 role for the Proteas.
Hamza, Du Plooy, Ngidi and Fortuin have formed an integral part of their franchises’ set up, while Van Tonder and Mulder have both captained the SA U19 team.
All in all, with this plan Gibson can build something unique, instead of a refurbished hash-up of an old team model.
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