KHALID MOHIDIN tries to climb into the minds of the Proteas selectors in an attempt to predict the Proteas’ 15 tickets on the plane to England.
We saw the Proteas’ full strength side make their last run-out to the middle in the first T20I against Sri Lanka. Apart from Hashim Amla, who is on compassionate leave, the side that played was pretty much the Proteas’ best XI.
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What we learnt from the series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka is that the selectors should have identified their best XV by now, but their XI for the opening game against England at The Oval will be one of the toughest decisions of the year.
Despite countless matches, countless opportunities and an impressive ODI series-winning streak, the Proteas have yet to settle on a full XV for the World Cup.
Gibson, however, dismissed the uncertainty when chatting to the media on Sunday
‘I’ve had 15 for a while now, but we’ve got to sit with fingers crossed,’ Gibson said. ‘My experience of working in the IPL is that there is always somebody who comes back with an injury’.
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Until the first T20I against Sri Lanka the selectors were still experimenting, in particular with the selection of David Miller as a backup wicketkeeper.
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The Proteas brains trust has managed to convince Miller to put his hand up as a backup wicketkeeper, which can only mean that they don’t rate the current crop of wicketkeeper batsmen in the country. Either that or they believe that there was no time to settle in a new-capped player to the Proteas setup.
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They have ignored brilliant keepers such as Kyle Verreyne from the Cobras and Rudi Second from the Knights, and instead fast-tracked 20-year-old Warriors wicketkeeper-batsman Sinethemba Qeshile into the T20I squad against Sri Lanka, with only half a franchise season under his belt.
Despite Ottis Gibson mentioning that a ‘wildcard’ pick is still open for someone to put up their hand, it seems a bit far-fetched that they will pick Qeshile as a backup keeper in such an important tournament.
Miller’s selection as backup keeper can only mean that this opens up an opportunity for the selectors to pick an extra specialist batsman or bowler in the XV, and it is an indication that the Proteas have lost faith in Heinrich Klaasen as backup gloveman.
Moving on to the bowlers, the Proteas seem to have extreme confidence when it comes to their bowling attack. First on the team sheet are Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir, while there still remains a shoot-out between Dale Steyn and Anrich Nortje as the Proteas’ third starting seamer. Nortje was ruled out of the IPL, but this could be a blessing in disguise as he aims to get himself to back full fitness before the team for the World Cup is announced.
The Proteas will complete their 50 overs with Andile Phehlukwayo and JP Duminy.
Cobras coach Ashwell Prince had an interesting suggestion when I interviewed him: he picked George Linde in his World Cup XV as a backup spinner for his ability with the bat. Prince believes that having a spinner who can bowl 10 overs and also contribute with the bat will be a lethal asset in the side, and will help to cut down the long tail when a second spinner is selected. Personally, based on Linde’s form, I feel it would be a wise move, as this would give the Proteas extra batting depth, which Shamsi won’t be giving the side if selected.
However, it is clear that Tabraiz Shamsi takes the spot as the backup spinner, as he is a brilliant spinner and has seemingly won the trust of the selectors.
Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram appear to be competing for the same spot in the Proteas ODI squad. They are both gunning for the backup opener position with Amla, who is expected to be first-choice opener, although the selection of Miller as backup keeper makes it possible for both players to be picked. The pendulum swung to Hendricks in final two T20Is against Sri Lanka, when he scored in the 60s in both T20Is.
Markram, however, edged Hendricks in the runs tally for the ODI series. With both players not involved in th IPL, it’s up to them to maintain form form domestically until the squad is announced in April.
I continue to believe that a decision must be made between Hendricks and Markram, with the last place going to a backup all-rounder – Dwaine Pretorius or Wiaan Mulder.
Pretorius’ last performance with the bat against Sri Lanka in the final T20I was impressive. Batting at No 3, he scored 77 off 44 balls setting up a simple victory for the Proteas.
World Cup squad prediction
1) Quinton de Kock (wk)
2) Hashim Amla
3) Faf du Plessis (c)
4) Rassie van der Dussen
5) David Miller (back up wk)
6) JP Duminy
7) Andile Phehulkwayo
8) Dale Steyn
9) Kagiso Rabada
10) Lungi Ngidi
11) Imran Tahir
12) Dwaine Pretorius
13) Aiden Markram
14) Anrich Nortje
15) Tabraiz Shamsi
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images