Yes or No to Tsotsobe?


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.



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50 Up for Hashim, the search for a new coach, and India’s spirit tested



The boxing day Test in Durban could potentially be the turning point for this Protea’s team. Two years ago in Australia they secured their first ever Test series win in Australia with a win in the Boxing Day Test. What should have been the start of a dominant period for the Protea’s turned on its head after that. They lost their next 3 Tests, losing the return home series against Australia, and then failed in both the T20 World Cup and the Champions Trophy. While 2008 was great, 2009 was not.

SO they now have the chance to launch themselves again. Last weeks thumping thrashing of the number one ranked Test team has given South Africa the chance to claim the series in Durban, and potentially set up a 3-0 whitewash which will take South Africa to the top ranking in Test cricket. While India have been steady and impressive in reaching the number one spot, there was always the feeling that they had to win outside India to justify the position. They’ll need a lot more fight to make up for the thrashing the received in the first Test. Zaheer Khan’s return should give the bowling a bit of spirit, but in truth they’ll need more of their attack to stand up, and not expect Zaheer to take on the South African’s on his own.

Hashim Amla will play his 50th Test match at his home ground of Kingsmead this Boxing Day. His brilliant form this year will be tested at a ground where he is yet to have an impact on the international scene. When Hashim scored a century at Lords in 2008 he stated that the ultimate would be a ton at Kingsmead, his home, rather than Lords, the home of cricket. The form he’s been in this year, he’ll have all the opportunity in the world to fix his poor record in Durban, and get the achievement he deserves in his 50th Test. It would be a just and fitting end to a great year for the star batsman. How they work the ICC rankings is baffling. While Amla’s form has seen him rise up the ODI rankings to number 2, the century he scored last week saw him climb to number 9? Surely he should be way higher than that?

This series will also see the South Africans begin their search for a new coach. Corrie van Zyl will step down after the World Cup and go back to his role at the High Performance Centre. Van Zyl has done a great job since taking over from Arthur, but always made it clear that it would be a temporary appointment. Those who are being talked about include former captain Kepler Wessels, Richard Pybus, who’s had a successful time in South African domestic cricket, and has coached internationally with Pakistan, and most interestingly, current India coach and South African legend Gary Kirsten. Kirsten will not be renewing his contract with India, and the timing does fit perfectly. Someone who has not been mentioned, but who I think would be a great choice, is the former Protea and current Dolphins coach, Graham Ford. Ford took over from Bob Woolmer in 1999 and lead the team to 8 series wins in 11. He was unlucky to be on the receiving end of two thrashings by Australia which cost him the job. Australia were thrashing everyone at that time so it was harsh to say the least. He deserves a fair crack at the highest level again, and his coaching and tactical knowledge would be perfect to ensure the team doesnt lose focus, as they did in 2009.

All that having been said, lets hope the weather doesnt ruin what should be a great match this week. The rain in Durban over the last month and a bit needs to take a bit of a break and give everyone what we need – an enjoyable festive season.



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