When the Proteas take on Zimbabwe in their one-off Test, Imran Tahir and Alviro Petersen shouldn’t be in the match XI.
It’s a new era under captain Hashim Amla, and one that got off to a great start with that series win in Sri Lanka. Now, the Proteas face the seemingly easy task of taking on Zimbabwe in Harare from 9-13 August.
There will only be one outcome to this fixture – a win for South Africa. The gulf in class between the two sides is so vast that the hosts would struggle to beat any of the six franchise teams in South Africa, let alone a world-class side high on confidence after reclaiming the No 1 spot in the rankings.
So, taking a victory as a given, this Test is the ideal time to blood some new talent. And the men to lose their spots should be leg-spinner Imran Tahir and opening batsman Alviro Petersen.
Both have been woeful in recent clashes, and it is time for them to make way for younger stars. Tahir is 35 and Petersen is 33. Neither player has much more than two or three years of top-level cricket left in them, and even if that weren’t the case, their current form does not warrant a place in the side.
Tahir, playing on tracks in Sri Lanka that were turning square, managed just four wickets in the two-Test series. That’s one less than JP Duminy took on the tour, and he is a part-time twirler.
Tahir is fine in the shorter formats, where his aggressive bowling yields wickets. But in Tests the bad balls are dispatched, and everything else is harmlessly blocked away. Let him play for the ODI and T20I teams, but end the suffering he has endured in Test cricket.
Petersen, too, was exposed in Sri Lanka. He now averages under 30 in the past 19 months, and has scored just one century in that time – against New Zealand at the beginning of 2013. That is a terrible record for an opening batsman, and it is time Petersen’s international career was ended.
So, who to replace them with? The solution is simple. Stiaan van Zyl is a quality batsman and, at 26, is old enough to deal with the pressure of opening in Tests.
On top of that, Zimbabwe is the ideal team for him to get his first taste of international cricket. Their opening bowlers will not be near the level he faces in the domestic four-day competition, and he will be under no pressure to perform. Let him play against them, and he might very well open his Test account with a big score or two.
In terms of getting confidence in the format, there is no better situation. He will then have his first Test under his belt when West Indies visit at the end of the year, and he can get on with the task of batting against a better, if not world-class, attack away from the distractions provided by debuting.
As for Tahir, his replacement should be chosen on a horses for courses basis. On seaming tracks, let Duminy take the spinning responsibilities, and shore up the batting order with one of the all-rounders, like Ryan McLaren or Wayne Parnell.
On spinning tracks, go with Dane Piedt. He is a talented young off-break bowler who has worked incredibly hard on his variations over the past two seasons. He is also tight, his economy in first-class cricket lying just above three to the over. He certainly shouldn’t be any worse than Tahir and, at 24, he still has a long career ahead of him.
It’s time for the selectors to reinforce an already strong team. Right now, there are nine quality players taking the field for the Proteas, accompanied by two tourists. Why not see if the other players in the squad are better than the incumbents? Against Zimbabwe, there is very little to lose.
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