Russell Domingo has insisted that Vernon Philander was fit to play in South Africa’s World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand on Tuesday, even though Kyle Abbott was the in-form bowler.
Domingo arrived with captain AB de Villiers and a few other squad members at the OR Tambo International airport early Friday morning after which they held a press conference with sports minister Fikile Mbalula.
There have already been some reports claiming Philander was picked ahead of Abbott for the knock-out game because of political pressure.
Philander conceded 52 runs off eight overs without taking a wicket against New Zealand. His better record in those conditions as a swing bowler and his batting capabilities have been used to justify his selection, even though it never really looked like he fully recovered from the hamstring injury which caused him to miss three pool games.
He presumably wasn’t ready to face Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals either.
‘Vern was fit to play,’ Domingo said. ‘He has been a champion bowler in all formats. When there’s something in the wicket, Vern is one of the best at exploiting those kind of conditions.
The selectors, of which Domingo is one, are also taking heat for failing to give left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso any game-time during the World Cup.
Imran Tahir was selected to play in South Africa’s final group game against minnows United Arab Emirates, but Domingo defended his team selection.
‘Imran Tahir has been such a good player for us in this format. With the game against UAE we had just lost against Pakistan, and we simply had to play our strongest team to ensure we finished second in our group.’
It’s quite alarming when you consider that what Domingo is really saying is that South Africa would have struggled to beat the UAE without Tahir.
It should be viewed as a concern that South Africa needed their so-called ‘best XI’ to beat a team who failed to win a single game at the tournament.
Convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson was quoted by the Star newspaper as saying it was a tough decision to make between Philander and Abbott.
‘It was a tough decision, but I think when Vernon was fit and came back from injury, and with Kyle being the form man, it was always going to be a tough ask,’ Hudson told the Star.
‘But we have to remember, Vernon has also performed for us over the years, and I think we were hoping that in New Zealand conditions he would have nipped it around a bit and do some damage. I also think that he gives us extra batting option at number eight, which helps us with our tail.’
The rest of the squad will arrive back in South Africa in two groups over the weekend.