Former Proteas spinner PAT SYMCOX says that it’s unlikely that the national selectors will opt for a double dose of spin at the World Cup, despite Tabraiz Shamsi’s fine form.
The huge difference between a Test and ODI team was on display in the recently concluded five-match series between South Africa and Pakistan. Although the home side won the series 3-2, the tourists were highly competitive, and it’s evident that white-ball cricket is their forte having struggled during the Test series. Pakistan are much more capable of holding their own in the shorter formats.
South Africa must be complimented for closing out the series at Newlands on Wednesday, but let’s not forget that both teams are languishing mid-table in the ICC ODI team rankings, with South Africa fourth and Pakistan fifth. At present, you wouldn’t put either side right up there with the best in the world, and the series seemed like a fair contest between two evenly matched outfits.
Over the course of the series, seam bowling has hogged the headlines, but I believe spin will play a role during the World Cup in the UK. For the first time in a long while, I thought that Shamsi bowled exceptionally well, and it seems to me as though he has lost some weight. He appears fitter and trimmer and is more structured in terms of his approach. He bowled really well in the third ODI and I felt that his control was exceptional. Owing to the fact that he bowled that well, the thought crossed my mind that if South Africa play on a wicket which is turning prodigiously, Shamsi and Imran Tahir could possibly dovetail for their country.
However, the fact that Shamsi and Tahir can’t bat at all is a predicament that captain Faf du Plessis will always face. The bottom line is that he would only be able to play the twin-spin threat if he had a genuine batting all-rounder at No 7 who could also bowl. The jury is still out in terms of that spot being filled and the final answer will come against Sri Lanka.
Playing two spinners in England … will it happen? Probably not. If South Africa select two spinners in their 15-man squad it’s likely that they won’t ever play together. However, they also could because they offer something different. Tahir’s bowling style is leg break googly, while Shamsi’s style is the slow left-arm chinaman. The 39-year-old Tahir, who has 153 ODI wickets in 94 games, is still ahead of Shamsi in the pecking order, and the former is always going to be the Proteas’ go-to man. If Shamsi, 28, cracks the World Cup squad, he will serve as second spinner in case Tahir gets injured or loses form.
While good in theory, in practice picking two spinners probably isn’t the answer for South Africa because they would end up carrying them both, but only one will play. As such, Otitis Gibson and Du Plessis are likely thinking of taking one spinner, along with an extra player who can bowl some spin.
South Africa are set to go with a battery of fast bowlers to England during the World Cup from May. I can clearly see Ottis’s fingers all over that bowling department and it has really looked the part. However, I most definitely wouldn’t discount the value of effective spin bowling on the UK pitches.
Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
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