Two SA 'keepers for Oz tour
AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - In a situation made only more imperative by AB de Villiers’s latest injury scares, the Proteas will definitely name another wicketkeeper in their squad - likely to be released on Wednesday - for the away Test series against Australia in November.
This was confirmed on Tuesday to Sport24 by Andrew Hudson, convenor of the national selectors, who also admitted that “at some stage a longer-term decision will be (required)” over De Villiers’s suitability to wear the gloves for the country across all three formats of the game.
The now top-ranked South Africa tackle the Baggy Greens, currently stationed at No 3, in three Tests: Brisbane (November 9-13), Adelaide (November 22-26) and Perth (November 30-December 4).
Certain alarm bells are sure to be ringing over revelations a few days ago that De Villiers, who is also one the team’s key batsmen, is suffering once more with recurring lower back and ankle problems.
He will take no part in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament, which is about to start on South African soil, and Proteas manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee has even been quoted on Cricinfo as saying that “if we don’t manage him properly he could be out (of the tour)”.
It can virtually be taken for granted that Thami Tsolekile, who linked up with the squad during their triumphant tour of England after Mark Boucher’s freak, career-ending eye injury, will thus again secure a passage to Australia.
Less certain this time, perhaps, is whether he simply continues in a “standby” capacity or whether he will actually get the first-team nod, relieving some of the wear-and-tear pressure on De Villiers by allowing him to operate purely as a specialist stroke-player again.
It is no secret that the team hierarchy enjoy the current balance of the XI, with De Villiers batting at No 5 and ‘keeping - he did a largely admirable job in that capacity in England’s demanding, seaming conditions - and the luxury of men like Jacques Rudolph and JP Duminy occupying the “six and seven” slots for comforting depth with the blade.
But it is also increasingly clear that De Villiers will continue to flirt dangerously with injury if he continues doing the sometimes gruelling glove-work in the five-day arena as well as at limited-overs level.
It is a delicate situation because, as Hudson pointed out, the trip to Australia (it is a Tests-only affair) is a “big series” for the Proteas and they want to assemble the strongest combination they can - in England they had the rare luxury of fielding the same team over the course of the three Tests and the honours were grabbed 2-0.
“AB needs to be managed, and we will call it as we go, constantly (re-assessing) him during the series,” Hudson said.
Tsolekile, who turned 32 on Tuesday, is an accomplished specialist behind the stumps, but the long-time question mark around him is whether his batting (first-class average 29.01) warrants his placement at probable No 7 in a Test side.
That said, he has thrived on more meaningful responsibility at the crease for the Lions in the domestic four-day arena over the past couple of seasons.*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing