Parnell: Lingering SA enigma

2014-08-29 11:13
Wayne Parnell (Gallo)

Cape Town – Some six months out from the 2015 World Cup, Wayne Parnell remains an element of the South African one-day international plans tricky to fathom for value. Or read, if you want to be more frank, open to critical scrutiny.

On paper, given the balance of the current side, the Port Elizabeth-born all-rounder looks a very agreeable fit at around No 7 or 8 in the order where he and another versatile competitor, Ryan McLaren, offer roughly equal credentials as batsmen.

In a perfect world, maybe, you’d feel just a bit better about the depth of your batting line-up if this pair were in slots eight and nine.

But the Proteas have enough genuine steel in their notably settled top six – even as key six-hitting specialist David Miller is still shy of really decisive, regular ODI delivery -- not to fret too much on that score.

That is probably reflected in the fact that Parnell has not even been required to take to the crease in five of his last seven ODIs to exhibit his known competence in that department.

With McLaren’s bowling in the last year or two having shown promising consistency both in economy and wicket-taking terms – though he’s just come off two rare, fairly expensive games on the trot against Zimbabwe and Australia – his right to a place in the XI is not in doubt and he is one of four South African bowlers in the ICC top 10 for ODIs.

McLaren stands sixth, with only Dale Steyn (fourth) superior, and presently injury-rehabbing Lonwabo Tsotsobe ninth and Morne Morkel in 10th.

Throw in the fact that unpredictable leg-spinner Imran Tahir is bowling really well in the 50-overs format – including a necessary, “brakes on” performance in the high-scoring victory over Australia on Wednesday – and the whole Proteas first team looks reasonably easy to assemble at present when they aren’t strategically resting certain personnel.

Well, almost the entire side: if there is one worrisome, murky area it is probably Parnell’s berth.

The Proteas made three changed to their line-up for Friday’s Harare meeting with weak, possibly crisis-plagued Zimbabwe: two could more likely be considered for “break” purposes as Aussie tormentor AB de Villiers plus Morne Morkel give this one a miss.

But Kyle Abbott effectively returning in Parnell’s spot carries that bit of a suggestion that “dropped” is at play ... and if so it rather sums up the left-arm seamer’s tenuous, enigmatic status in the team.

Although you shouldn’t obsess too much with the rankings, Parnell is some distance behind the ones mentioned above, in an obscure 41st.

He is still only 25 but it seems like ages since he debuted for South Africa ... and in some ways it is, when you consider that he was a 19-year-old when that happy event occurred for him in January 2009, and he quickly became the youngest player to earn a CSA contract with his good zip and ability to “bend” the ball at times like the proverbial banana.

Several years later, though, and there isn’t a whole heap of evidence, either visual or statistical, to suggest he has markedly kicked on from that early, so rosy potential.

The more cynical do mutter sometimes that he is better at altering his zany haircuts every few weeks than doing his supposedly bread-and-butter trade for the Proteas.

Parnell continues to bowl some absolute peaches here and there ... but he also persists with an infuriating habit of loosening his grip over batsmen by slipping one down leg for a wide or serving up a very smackable half-volley. And after as many as 38 ODIs, shouldn’t that tendency be much closer to near-elimination?

He struggles to keep a lid on things in the economy department, where his run concession rate is a little closer to a damaging six than it is five right now (5.56).

Although the opportunities have been a little scattered, it is noticeable that he has had three successive, leaky ODIs against what might be termed top-tier opposition: 5-0-37-0 against India in Johannesburg, 4-0-38-1 against Sri Lanka in Hambantota and more recently a particularly inglorious 7-0-66-0 against the Australians in the first Harare encounter between the two huge rivals.

Has a bit of patience run out, explaining his omission on Friday?

Personally, I’d still love Parnell to “arrive”, and potentially to be a force and an important varietal element of the Proteas attack at the World Cup in Australasia. He is a talent, few deny that, and some disciplinary demons have also held him back at times although none of late, it seems.

But he needs to be careful that the station doesn’t suddenly close on him just as he thinks he may be pulling into the platform ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  wayne parnell  |  cricket

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