The Protea’s have announced their squads for the two ODI games against Zimbabwe, the two T20 games against England, and the first three ODI games against England. While not exactly making surprise selections, they have made some brave, proactive choices after South Africa’s failures in the Champions Trophy.
South Africa have been the most consistent, and perhaps the best, ODI team over the last few years, but their record in ODI series has not been transferred to ICC events. As the team looks to rectify this problem, and build towards the next T20 World Cup next year and the ICC World Cup in 2011. With this entire in mind the selectors have dropped stalwarts Makhaya Ntini and Herchelle Gibbs, while uncapped Heino Kuhn and Ryan McLaren get call ups, and Loots Bosman, Alviro Peterson, and Charl Langeveld earn recalls. Robin Peterson also misses out from the squad that did duty in the Champions Trophy.
The exclusion of Ntini is noteworthy but hardly surprising. The fast bowler has been in most Protea’s squads in recent times, but has not been part of the full strength ODI team, losing his place to the young talent Wayne Parnell. His ODI form has been on the decline in the last 18 months, and the man who was once the spearhead of the attack, and formed a formidable opening bowling partnership with Shaun Pollock, could be seeing his ODI career take a natural death. He is still however part of the Test plans.
The dropping of Gibbs is a little different. Gibbs has lost his Test place a year ago and now finds himself out of the ODI and T20 squads too. At 35 it will be hard for him to force his way back into the team, but he is still supremely fit, still one of the best fielders around, and if he develops consistency with his batting, he could still earn a recall. That’s been the problem with Gibbs – a lack of consistency. Flashes of his old brilliance have been punctuating low scores and the selectors would prefer it the other way around. His performance in the Champions League for the Cape Cobra’s sums up his form over the last couple of years. He scored 1 run in his first three innings before smashing a superb 42 in the semi final; where he gave his wicket away instead of going on to lead his team to a winning target.
Changes to the personnel aren’t the only ones the Protea’s have unveiled for the upcoming matches. With Gibbs missing out the thought would be that Hashim Amla or Alviro Peterson would open the batting with Smith. The selectors though have decided that Kallis will open, something he has been doing in T20 matches for both South Africa and Bangalore, with AB de Villiers and JP Duminy each moving up one place to 3 and 4. Peterson, an opening batsman, will then be asked to bat at 5. The inclusion of Peterson sends all the right messages to those in domestic cricket, as he has been rewarded for his run scoring with the Lions and with South Africa A. That natural progression is one that all local players need to see rewarded. Amla could come into the team anywhere from 1 to 5 if need be and Peterson could move to his natural opening birth if the Kallis move doesn’t work out. The changes do however give more responsibility to de Villiers and Duminy, and allowing them to come in a little earlier could be just what the batting line up needs.
Another interesting change is with Albie Morkel. The all rounder is set to be used as a pure batsman, coming in at number 6 and not 7 or 8 where he has been used for much of his international career. Many South African fans feel his big hitting has been wasted so low down the order, and his top score, and only international ODI 50, a 97 against Zimbabwe, was scored batting at 3. The move has been prompted by his dip in bowling form rather than recognising his batting. The pressure to bowl 10 overs will be taken off him and he will be free to concentrate on his batting. Batting at 6 will allow him more time to play himself in, something he needs, then the lower order afforded him, but it will be good to see the selectors allow him to float higher on occasion.
The bowling, badly undercooked in the Champions Trophy, has been strengthened with the recalling of Langeveld, a death bowling expert, as well as all rounder Ryan McLaren. With Dale Steyn the only bowler assured of a starting place, Langeveld and McLaren will battle with spin twins Botha and van der Merwe, Tsotsobe and Parnell for the remaining three places. The bowling options are good and varied and all should be given a chance in the two series.
The inclusion of Kuhn, the Titans opening batsman/keeper, for the T20 games against England, where he will make his international debut, gives an inkling into the selectors plans for a post Mark Boucher era for South Africa, with AB de Villiers deciding he wants to be purely a batsman and not the next Protea’s keeper.
South Africa A teams have also been named to play against England in 50 over and T20 warm up games. The A teams see squad players like Amla and Tsotsobe from the ODI squad, and Bosman and Abdulla from the T20 squad, chosen along with the new caps McLaren and Kuhn, players who have been part of the Protea’s squads and looking to play themselves back in, such as Morne Morkel, Ontong, Robin Peterson, and Thandi Tshabalala, and a good mix of young and form players knocking on the door of selection, such as Eagles players CJ de Villiers and Rilee Russouw. The A teams seem to be the players just outside the Protea’s squad, and that’s the way it should be, as a bridge to the full squad.
The full squads are: South Africa ODI squad: Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Jacques Kallis, Charl Langeveld, Ryan McLaren, Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Roelof van der Merwe
Twenty20 squad: Graeme Smith (capt), Yusuf Abdulla, Loots Bosman, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher (wk), AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Jacques Kallis, Heino Kuhn (wk), Charl Langeveld, Ryan McLaren, Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Roelof van der Merwe
South Africa A 50-overs squad: Hashim Amla (capt), Henry Davids, CJ de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn (wk), Ryan McLaren, Morne Morkel, Robin Peterson, Rilee Rossouw, Rusty Theron, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Vaughn van Jaarsveld
South Africa A 20-overs squad: Justin Ontong (capt), Yusuf Abdulla, Loots Bosman, Henry Davids, CJ de Villiers, Rory Kleinveldt, Heino Kuhn (wk), Morne Morkel, Rilee Rossouw, Rusty Theron, Thandi Tshabalala, Vaughn van Jaarsveld
pic from cricinfo.com