• Van Zyl at a crossroads

    Stiaan van Zyl must decide whether he wants to commit himself as an opening batsman or revert back to the middle order.

    Van Zyl was released from the South African Test squad on Tuesday after a torrid run of form with the bat which stretched back to the India series. Stephen Cook has been called up in his place and is expected to make his debut in the fourth and final Test against England at Centurion.

    Van Zyl was used as an opener despite being a regular No 3 batsman at franchise level. He moved to the top of the order for the Cape Cobras in order to accommodate his deployment there for the national side.

    However, Van Zyl made his debut against the West Indies batting at No 6 and scored his maiden hundred.

    He scored 933 runs in the Sunfoil Series in the 2013/2014-season and was identified as the next batsman to get a chance in the national set up if and when a spot opened up. It did when Alviro Petersen retired after the West Indies series at the beginning of 2015.

    Van Zyl never got going in India or against England but remains a talented batsman. He now finds himself at a crossroads in his career and has to decide if he wants to continue playing as an opener or revert back to being a top order batsman.

    Van Zyl said the selectors told him they want to use specialist openers in Tests.

    ‘They also advised that I decide whether I want to commit myself to the opening position or the middle-order,’ Van Zyl said.

    ‘I possibly lean towards the No 3 or No 4 position, but will first discuss it with trusted allies [including the management of the Cape Cobras] before I make a final decision.

    ‘I think the decision to omit me is reasonable because I had some fair chances. The things that hurt the most are not my ducks or the single-figure totals, but the fact that I did not convert 30s and 40s. At the same time, it just underlines that I can play at that level and hang around.

    ‘I don’t feel out of my depth. I have had a taste of Test cricket and I’m vowing to return to the domestic first-class arena and score as many runs as possible.’

    There are those who still believe in his abilities and one of them is former Proteas batsman Jacques Rudolph, who himself was used as a makeshift opener during his career.

    ‘Stiaan is a brilliant batsman,’ Rudolph said. ‘You don’t average 44 at first-class level if you are not one. It is important that he finds his identity in either the opening position or the middle-order again, and then press for selection through the sheer volume of runs.’

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