Cricket World Cup 2015

Is it bye-bye Behardien?

2015-02-11 13:22
Farhaan Behardien (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – It is just beginning to look as though South Africa, at the start of the World Cup, will return to the filing cabinet their “bits-and-pieces player” strategy for the problematic No 7 slot in the team.

And that could spell curtains for Farhaan Behardien, the Titans batsman and occasional medium-pacer who had spent several of the last few weeks entrusted with the job.

Unfortunately his numbers haven’t stacked up well in personal performance terms, and if the two warm-up matches for the tournament – first against Sri Lanka and then on Wednesday New Zealand - serve as any barometer then a late change of thinking is underway.

In short, he’s barely been used across the pair of matches, where the entire 15-man squads may be employed in varying capacities, and he doesn’t seem the kind of player to be strategically “held back” - if anything he has only needed extra exposure with both ball and blade in the limb-looseners to gain confidence if he has an immediate future in the proper starting XI.

Behardien reportedly has some sort of back problem which kept him muzzled on Wednesday; it will only further cause doubts to swirl around his usage at the event.

The Proteas start their Pool B campaign against Zimbabwe at Hamilton’s Seddon Park on Sunday (03:00 SA time), perhaps just a little nose out of joint after following up their Duckworth/Lewis-influenced victory over Sri Lanka with an unpalatable 134-run thumping at the hands of in-form co-hosts the Black Caps.

Veteran World Cup observers will not be reading too much into results in the slightly artificial exercises, where rotation and experimentation are so often desirable features, and vital players who are already in good nick either don’t play or intentionally operate at well less than full steam.

In the heavy reverse to the New Zealanders, for example, Dale Steyn didn’t bowl and Hashim Amla didn’t bat, so panic among Proteas fans would be more than a bit premature.

Yet a hallmark of both warm-ups was that the 31-year-old Behardien, who has played 21 one-day internationals, was extremely peripheral even before news of his back issue came out.

He did not bat in either warm-up, so he has not played an innings of substance for the Proteas since his 63 against Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground in November if you throw in the fact that he either failed or got restricted opportunities to take guard in the home West Indies series subsequently.

Not helping his cause was that in his brief, two-over bowling stint against Sri Lanka a few days ago, he was carted for 20 runs after deployment as only seventh option by SA.

It strongly hints that coach Russell Domingo and his inner circle may be shifting toward the idea, for the tournament-proper, of risking diluting the batting a bit by replacing Behardien with a more proven seam bowling option: meaning a shoot-out between Wayne Parnell and Kyle Abbott for the berth, and perhaps the under-rated Vernon Philander being hiked a notch or two for batting purposes.

Between them, Parnell (the better of the pair willow-wise) and Abbott have shared nine wickets across the two warm-ups and had far more generous bowling opportunities than Behardien.

The Proteas had a rare collective “wobbly” among their batting cream against the Black Caps on Wednesday, sliding to 62 for six in pursuit of a target well in excess of 300, and it was significant that Philander (57) played a prominent role in sparing at least some blushes in a fighting, century stand with the more established stroke-player JP Duminy.

Should South Africa choose to field one of Parnell or Abbott in the first couple of pool matches, it would ease the pressure on Duminy to bowl his off-spinners to a significant extent, as he would become the sixth bowling option.

Still, you cannot completely dismiss the possibility that the intention is still to stick stubbornly to Behardien’s inclusion, with the physiotherapy staff hard at work restoring him to fullest fitness ahead of Sunday’s Zimbabwe date. 

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cwc 2015  |  farhaan behardien  |  cricket

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