As I begin writing this post the ODI series between South Africa and India is poised at 2-2, with India needing to chase 268 from 46 overs to take the series. No easy task, but within their capabilities. Of course this series is just a warm up to the big event next month in the sub continent when the two giants will face off again in a group game at the World Cup.
On Tuesday night, after India again won a tight encounter, the Protea’s named their World Cup squad. The squad contains a good mix of youth, experience, pace, spin and the potential surprise of Imran Tahir – who’s yet to play a game for his adopted country.
In truth most of the squad picked itself. If you’d asked a bunch of people to pick the squad a few months ago, with the proviso so Tahir would qualify, you’d have most people picking similar squads with perhaps 12-13 of the 15 common across most lists. With that said an inclusion that most may not have had is that of Morne van Wky. Always a performer at domestic level, the Eagles opener and keeper is a great tactical choice by the selectors. When Smith pulled out of the T20 before the ODI series van Wky was given a last minute call up. He took his chance to impress brilliantly and was the only Protea batsman to really show up. He’ll fulfill the role as back up to de Villiers behind the stumps, as well a backup batsman, able to bat anywhere in the order. So that’s the positive from the squad.
Where the selectors have failed is in not picking David Miller or Albie Morkel. The middle to lower order collapses during the current series have been alarming. What is clear though, and was very evident today, is that the Protea’s don’t have anyone in the middle/lower order who can come in and clear the boundary. The batsman they do have are all very good and can fulfill roles of keeping the scoreboard ticking, rotating strike, and rebuilding an innings, but arent finishers. Past South African teams have been spoiled for choice with the likes of Lance Klusner, Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher, Nicky Boje and Albie Morkel. This squad is clearly missing a trick.
Miller was identified as that player once the selectors decided that Albie Morkels form had declined. Yet instead of sticking with the young player they have balked at the first hint of panic. It became clear after Faf duplessis made a debut 60 that Colin Ingram and Miller were playing for one position. As good as a player as Ingram is the selectors made the wrong choice. They’ve gone for a number 3 batsman to bat at 6 or 7. Ingram is a backup to Kallis spot and nothing else. He’s not suited to anything lower and it’s unfair to expect him to be called on to finish off an innings. That’s the role they picked Miller for and the role he should have been persevered with. If anything it made more sense to take the youngster with and have him part of the World Cup squad, even if he didn’t get on the field. Instead he’ll be watching from home, confidence shattered, having to rebuild his reputation, while the Protea’s struggle with finish off an innings.
If Miller was seen as to green to take to the World Cup, then why not go with Albie Morkel? He has the record, the experience, and has been out of the team for a period to warrant coming back hungry. His record in the IPL bares testament to how he performs on Indian pitches. That match winning late swing bowling that turned a loss into a win against Pakistan in Pakistan a few seasons back shows just how good he can be. His big hitting needs no justification. On his day he can’t be touched.
With Miller and Albie sat at home it would make more sense to have van Wyk come in at 6 or 7 if need be than Ingram. Ingrams time in the top order will come, he’s a very talented run accumulator, but at this stage, for this particular role, the SA selectors have erred big time.
A final thought – if not Miller or Albie….why not Davy Jacobs?