With just three matches to go before the T20 World Cup begins, RYAN VREDE looks at the composition of the final squad as matters stand.
The Proteas concluded a successful winter programme with a comprehensive victory over Ireland this past Saturday.
They came into the West Indies series last month having won just four of 16 T20Is under head coach Mark Boucher. That record now reads: played 24, won 10, lost 14.
It is still a mediocre record and there are still serious concerns going into the final three matches against India in October. Chief among those, are the middle order’s chronic impotency and a glaring skills deficiency among those tasked with bowling at the death.
The series against India will refine the selectors’ thinking, but the winter schedule would have provided some clarity.
This is where I think some players stand …
Temba Bavuma: His form has been ordinary, but a solid knock in the final T20I match against Ireland could be the spark he needs to build some consistency going into the World Cup. I’ve liked his approach as skipper, setting high standards for the team and being honest with the media when they fall short of those standards.
Quinton de Kock: Has emerged as the Proteas’ most important T20I batsman following a lean run as he struggled under the weight of the captaincy. He is the Proteas’ only genuine X-factor batter, capable of playing consistently match-defining innings.
Tabraiz Shamsi: The world’s leading T20I bowler is putting distance between himself and others in the rankings off the back of a brilliant 2021. Shamsi has taken 24 wickets this year and, given his form and the favourable conditions he’ll enjoy in India and at the World Cup in the UAE and Oman later this year, he looks set to break Andrew Tye’s 2018 record of 31 wickets in 19 matches.
Kagiso Rabada: Finished as the joint third-highest wicket-taker in the West Indies series but his economy rate (9.44) was problematic, as was a lack of variation and skills at the death. Played just one match in the Ireland series, but the Proteas are highly unlikely to go to any major tournament without their pace kingpin.
Rassie van der Dussen: Been one of the Proteas’ most consistent T20I players this calendar year and looks likely to hold down a spot at Nos 4 or 5 for the tournament. He hasn’t scored above 25 in his last four innings, which is worrying. He also needs to develop his boundary-hitting options on slow tracks. Hopefully he is able to remedy this shortcoming between now and October.
David Miller: It feels like we’re consistently in a state of hope when it comes to Miller. He is an immense talent, capable of taking the game away from the opposition in a handful of overs. However, he is woefully inconsistent. He averaged just 13 against the West Indies, but was excellent against Pakistan and Ireland in the other series this year. We can only hope that the best version of him shows up at the World Cup.
Anrich Nortje: Didn’t play in the Ireland series, but I think that is attributable to his competency being established in the West Indies. He came into that series having played four T20I matches, with an economy rate over 10. He finished it with an excellent economy rate of 7 for the series, and reduced his overall economy to 7.66.
George Linde: Has played all but one of the Proteas’ 12 T20I matches in 2021, establishing himself as an extremely valuable part of the bowling attack, whether deployed at the top of the innings or elsewhere. His batting performances have, however, betrayed his talent. He is exponentially better than an average of 11 and needs to show that quickly.
Aiden Markram: Markram was the find of the Windies series, where he finished as the second-highest run-scorer, despite playing less matches than most of the other frontline batsmen. Started the Ireland series well, scoring 39 off 30 deliveries and underlining his value as a middle-order option, especially considering a strike rate that has edged over 150.
Lungi Ngidi: By virtue of the fact that Ngidi has played seven of the Proteas’ 12 T20I matches this season, it’s likely he will make the squad for the World Cup. Ngidi is among the most skilful bowlers in the Proteas’ ranks, but is still learning to execute those skills under pressure. He doesn’t have a lot of time and the possibility that the Proteas could go with three spinners, as well as the imminent return of Dwaine Pretorius (missed both series because of Covid-19 restrictions), means he isn’t a certain starter.
Bjorn Fortuin: His involvement in the starting XI depends on the balance the selectors choose to go with. I argued a few weeks ago that three spinners (Shamsi, Linde, Fortuin) would be a bold selection approach for the World Cup. Fortuin’s batting aids his cause, although he is yet to play the type of innings that has become commonplace for his franchise, the Lions.
Dwaine Pretorius: Missed the Windies and Ireland tour through Covid-19 protocols but has been the Proteas’ most successful all-rounder in recent years. Averages nearly 32 with the bat at a strike rate of over 165, while an economy rate of 8.07 means he is likely to edge out Wiaan Mulder for a place in the squad.
Janneman Malan: Failed to follow through on his excellent 177* in the one-day series, but probably showed enough there to secure a spot as a top-order replacement.
Reeza Hendricks: Did his chances of making the squad a world of good by scoring 69 in the one chance he got in the Ireland series. This after being dropped for the series decider against the Windies. He gets too many starts without translating those into match-defining innings, but will provide competent cover if needed.
Wiaan Mulder: Hasn’t done enough to be certain of a spot ahead of Pretorius, but may edge in if the selectors decide to sacrifice a specialist.
Heinrich Klaasen: Was really good against Pakistan earlier this year but he hasn’t scored over 15 in five innings. Looks a shadow of the player he can be.
Kyle Verreynne: It’s a straight shootout between him and Klaasen for the backup keeper spot and, at this stage, it doesn’t look good for the kid.
Andile Phehlukwayo: The selectors seemed to have moved past him as a starting option, which is understandable given his chronic mediocrity. I’d still expect him to be in the squad, but he is likely to carry drinks for the duration of the tournament.
Beuran Hendricks: A left-hander who is able to swing it is a valuable T20I player in theory, but Hendricks hasn’t taken any of the chances on offer. He’ll probably watch from his couch.
Lizaad Williams: May sneak in on the strength of the six T20I matches he has played, but far from an inked-in player.
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
Faf du Plessis: Wildly successful on the T20 circuit in recent years, Du Plessis is available for selection. He will add world-class quality to a batting lineup that desperately needs it, but given that he hasn’t been selected at all since he announced his retirement from Test and ODI cricket, Du Plessis’ Proteas career appears to be over.
Imran Tahir: Has consistently spoken of his desire to represent the Proteas at the World Cup, but the 42-year-old is highly unlikely to unseat any of the three spinners currently in the squad.