South Africa begin the post Shaun Pollock era of ODI cricket with a three match series against Bangladesh. While their will be stiffer tests to this new period in their ODI history, with tours to India, England and Australia to follow, the South Africans will be fully aware that Bangladesh can not be taken lightly, especially at home.
South Africa need only to cast their minds back to the World Cup, where they were well beaten by a determined Bangladesh team. Although still the weakest of all Test playing teams Bangladesh are still capable of beating anyone on their day. A 3-0 win by the Proteas will take them to the top of the ODI rankings ahead of Australia.
The selectors have chosen to omit Kallis, Boucher and Ntini from the ODI squad, opting to give them a rest ahead of the toughest touring itinerary they have faced, the India, England and Australia tours are all away. They will give opportunites to the likes of Hashim Amla and Paul Harris, both of whom will be making their ODI debuts, while Alviro Peterson, the Lions opening batsman, will get a chance to stake a claim for future tours. AB de Villiers will fill in for Boucher behind the stumps.
The real test for the squad will be the bowling, and in particular the new ball bowling. Not only is there a void left by the retirement of Pollock, but his new ball partner Ntini is being rested. Charl Langeveld, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn will all be striving to show that they have what it takes to fill in that huge gap in the attack. Albie Morkel will also be out to show the selectors that he can play as the all rounder in the squad, as a change bowler, and a destructive finisher of an innings with the bat.
They used to say the Jonty Rhodes saved around 20 runs an innings with his fielding. The same can be now be said of Shaun Pollock in terms of his strict, disciplined bowling. With Pollock bowling from one end South Africa were assured that their strike bowle, Ntini, could come blasting in, attacking, from the other end. Pollock not only ensured South Africa got off to a tidy start, he created pressure, and in so doing helped those around him pick up wickets. Morkel, Langeveld and Steyn will have a lot to do, but they are not Shaun Pollocks. No longer will South Africa have the luxury of having their opponents 40/2 after 10 overs, they will have to work hard at keeping things tight and restrictive, cutting back on extra’s, and will have to rely more on getting wickets to curb the run rate.
The short three match series offers players a chance to step up, to show the selectors that they are capable of taking over from the legend that is Pollock, while also offering the selectors a chance to scope where they can go from here, in a post Shaun Pollock era. The true worth of the man, although never underestimated during his playing days, will well and truly be felt in the coming months. Lets hope someone grabs their chance.
(photo from http://www.cricinfo.com)