Strange Non-Selection

South Africa named their squads for the tour to India next month, a tour consisting of two Test matchs and three ODI’s. Both squads show changes to the squads for each format that did duty in the recently completed England series.

Returning to the Test squad is spinner Johan Botha, who last played a Test against Bangladesh in 2008, and fast bowler  Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who has been part of squads in the last year, but is yet to play a Test. There is no place in the 15 man squad for Makhaya Ntini.  The ODI squad sees a return for Herchelle Gibbs and Loots Bosman, both opening batsman, with Hashim Amla, Ryan McLaren and Charl Langeveld missing out.

The dropping of Hashim Amla from the ODI squad is a strange one. Amla has been pigeon holed as a Test batsman but his performances in ODI’s, when given the chance, have been very impressive. Since making his ODI debut in March 2008 Amla has played 22 matches. In those 22 matches he has averaged 47.11 at a strike rate of 82.65. He has scored one hundred and six fifty’s with a top score of 140. He also scored 97 and an unbeaten 80 odd against Australia last year. In the past year he has played as an opening batsman in ODI’s and has an average of 67 at a strike rate of over 80. It’s a record that would have him up with the best in the game. Yet he has been dropped? It’s hard to see why.

Loots Bosman was in terrific form in the two T20 games against England, scoring a 50 and 94, the highest score by a South African, and featuring in a world record partnership with Smith. The option of an explosive opening batsman is one the selectors were looking for, and Bosman will be given a chance on Indian wickets with the World Cup in mind. So his selection is a good one, and can be backed up with a solid foundation. Gibbs selection ahead of Amla is the real issue. Gibbs has been out of touch internationally for a while now, and lost his place in the team after the Champions Trophy failure versus England. In truth his form over the last few years has been very patchy, with rare innings of sublime genius reminding all of the old Gibbs, punctuating many failures. Waiting for the good innings amongst the failures was proving frustrating. At 35 it’s a case of age catching up to the talented stroke player rather than a lack of ability. It happens to everyone, as Ntini is finding out, but he is being given yet another chance. His form in domestic limited over cricket has been brilliant, and it is based on this that he makes a return. As welcome as a free scoring Gibbs is it does leave a bitter taste that Amla is forced out of the squad while being the most consistent ODI batsman over the last year.

It’s not solely the inclusion of Gibbs that has pushed Amla out. South Africa’s prodigious talent JP Duminy is going through his first bad patch of his young international career but the selectors are keen to stick with him, knowing that it will payoff in the long run. So a batsman had to make way and unfortunately that seems to be Amla.

While it is good that South Africa are in a position to be able to choose between players of the caliber of Gibbs, Bosman, Duminy and Amla, acknowledging impressive dept, something seems out of place when perceptions seems to take precedent over raw facts and stats. Amla deserves a long run in the ODI team, and deserves the faith and backing of the selectors.

I’m sure Amla has no bitterness or ill feeling about his dropping, but you wouldn’t blame him if he did.

Test squad Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher (wk), AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Ryan McLaren, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Ashwell Prince, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

ODI squad Graeme Smith (capt), Loots Bosman, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher (wk), AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Roelof van der Merwe.

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