With the Boxing day Test between South Africa and India a day away, both teams have a few selection issues to think about. The choices should be easier for India, who will have to make changes to the woeful performance first time out. Zaheer Khan will come in for any of the seamers, none did enough to suggest they are ahead of the others, and Pujara could come in for the misfiring Raina. For the hosts there is only one possible change. To play Tsotsobe or not?
The conditions at Kingsmead, where there is expected to be some grass on the pitch, and over cast weather, could be the ideal time to play an all seam attack for South Africa. This could mean Mclaren or Parnell coming in for Harris, or both coming in for Harris and Tsotsobe. The likelihood though, no matter how seam friendly the pitch and conditions are, South Africa will retain Harris. The current Protea’s team, unlike the 90’s teams, will almost always go into a Test match with a spinner. So it becomes a shoot out between McLaren, Parnell and Tsotsobe.
Tsotsobe was the weak link in the attack in the opening Test. He was unlucky, with drop catches and mistimed shots, edges, all finding gaps, but the drop in pace, after facing Steyn and Morkel, meant that he was targeted by the Indian batsman. The same could have happened to anyone who played the 3rd seamer role. The danger here is that in the deeply political let up of South African sport, Tsotsobe is made to feel like a token non white player rather than a bowler of merit. Be sure that he is just that – his performances in the ODI series against Pakistan highlighted just what an affective bowler he is, but the longer he goes in Test cricket without picking up wickets the more people will cynically whisper. They did it to Hashim Amla when he first started and struggled with Test cricket. He’s now one of the top batsman in world cricket. So patience is the key here.
On form Mclaren is the right choice. Domestically he’s been brilliant, both with the ball, where he opens the bowling, and with his batting in the lower order. Mclaren would give the batting lineup depth that we havent seen since the Pollock, Klusner, Boje years. The selectors have said that they would reward domestic form, and with that Mclaren should be the obvious pick.
However Tsotsobe was picked for the opening Test, and it would send the wrong message to him where he to be discarded after one poor match. The potential is there, and having picked him they should stick with him. The pitch in Kingsmead may be more to his liking.
Potentially, Parnell is the best option. He offers both pace and swing, can bat, and is a future star of world cricket. He has however come back from a long injury, has not played much cricket since, and has remodeled his action somewhat. There needs to be a point where South Africa pick him, and stick with him. An attack led by Steyn, Morkel and Parnell has the potential to be lethal. Perhaps this is too soon for that however.
The best option would have been to pick Mclaren for the opening Test and stick with him. That didn’t happen and Tsotsobe was the man chosen. Having done so the selectors should be consistent and stick with Tsotsobe. He needs confidence and dropping him would not be the way to build that. Expect an unchanged Protea’s 11 tomorrow.
pic from cricinfo.com