Proteas ODI Squad: The Old, the New and the Confusing

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The Proteas are just six weeks away from their first bilateral series since their dramatic World Cup exit. The ODI squad that did duty during the tournament remains relatively unchanged, with only three members being rested.  This upcoming series against Bangladesh has allowed the selectors to give fringe players the opportunity to stake a claim for a more permanent position in the squad. There are some promising selections but, unfortunately, some questionable inclusions as well.

Negative selections

Farhaan Behardien is closing in on 32 years of age and his performances at the highest level have been less than convincing. It would be harsh to class Berhardien as a bits and pieces cricketer as his bowling can be effective on slow stodgy pitches and we’ve seen glimpses of his potential with the bat. At the domestic level, he has proven that he is not only a hard-hitting batsman who can bludgeon the ball to all parts of the ground, but that he can also construct an innings. Unfortunately, at international level, he comes across as nothing more than an average all-rounder.

He played four matches in the World Cup, batting only twice with a highest score of 64 not out against the UAE and only bowling 11 overs, failing to take a wicket. Yes, South Africa were often forced to turn to part-timers given the make-up of the team, but is Berhardien really the answer?

For most South African cricket fans the continued selection of Protea bowling all-rounder Wayne Parnell is a puzzling one. As a young 19-year-old Parnell was full of promise and this was clearly evident during the 2008 U19 Cricket World Cup, most notably where he took six wickets in just five overs in the quarter-final against Bangladesh.

In only his second ODI for South Africa, Parnell delivered an opening spell that very few could ever forget. Fast, swinging and deadly accurate, along with Dale Steyn he reduced Australia to 19-5.

Over the years, Parnell has shown glimpses of brilliance but has never been a consistent performer at the highest level. He tends to leak runs early in his spell and lacks the confidence and self-belief to bounce back.  How long are the selectors prepared to persist with someone who after many years has yet to fully actualise his potential?

Players with a point to prove

Kyle Abbott was one of South Africa’s most in-form players at the ICC Cricket World Cup. He was a real asset to the side with his ability to swing the ball up front and keep things tight towards the back end of the innings. He must feel that he has something to prove to the selectors after being left out of the side to face New Zealand in the semi-final.

Many pundits, including former South African fast bowler Fanie De Villiers, believe that Ryan Mclaren should have been given the nod ahead of Wayne Parnell in the World Cup squad, as he has been a relatively consistent performer for the Proteas. However, he took just one wicket and conceded 166 runs against Australia in Australia. He’ll be out to prove that he deserves a spot in the 15-man squad.

Left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso will be hoping for considerable game time after being a mere passenger at World Cup. The World Cup, however, is not a stage for experimentation. One should select the final XI based on form, conditions and the opposition. The only exception would have been if South Africa had beaten both India and Pakistan but even then, there’s an argument to stick with a winning combination. Phangiso will want to prove that he is a frontline spinner deserving of a place in the starting XI.

Quinton de Kock struggled to find form during the World Cup. He only managed to make one significant contribution and that was in the quarter-final against Sri Lanka where he scored 78 not out and in the process lead the Proteas to the semi-final. It was a below par total which made his task slightly easier but given the magnitude of the occasion and the personal pressure that he was under, it was an outstanding innings.

His spot in the ODI side is not under immediate threat partly due to the fact that AB de Villiers is reluctant to take the gloves in the shorter forms of the game, and the only other aggressive opening keeper-batsman at franchise level is Morné Van Wyk and his age is against him. De Kock will be looking to make up for a relatively poor showing at the World Cup and in the process solidify his spot at the top of the order.

Encouraging selections

When Chris Morris last represented South Africa he failed to light up the international stage and was subsequently dropped in July 2013 after playing just five ODIs. Following ankle surgery in 2014 which kept him out of action for six months, he went on to spearhead the Rajasthan Royals attack in the recently concluded Indian Premier League, taking 13 wickets at an economy rate of 7.4 runs per over. Morris, coming in at number eight has shown improved ability with the bat which will be an asset for South Africa.

The much touted Kagiso Rabada’s selection is an exciting one. He is without a doubt the future of South African cricket. Earlier this year, Rabada claimed nine wickets in an innings in a domestic four-day game and finished with match figures of 14 for 105. However, he still needs to find his feet in the shorter forms of the game.

The ODI series commences on Friday, July 10th.

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