Cape Town – That steady, willing servant of the national
cause Kyle Abbott runs the considerable risk of being pushed into the margins
again at the ICC World Twenty20.
The return to fitness after a lengthy absence of iconic pace
spearhead Dale Steyn is the crucial development that appears set to largely
consign Abbott to wearing a bib in the dugout at the India-staged tournament.
Understandably, many critics assume the two are fighting for
one berth in the likely starting XI in most instances -- unless injury mishaps
to other seamers intervene and fielding them together suddenly becomes an
easier scenario to envisage.
As things stand, the outstanding young Kagiso Rabada and
leg-spinner Imran Tahir are absolute certainties in a first-choice attack, and
the vogue at present is also to place faith in two big-striking “bowling
all-rounders”, David Wiese and Chris Morris, for berths seven and eight in the
So that leaves one more pace slot … and it had been occupied
with some success by Abbott for a while, ahead of Steyn’s long-awaited and
mostly heartening comeback in the narrow loss to Australia in the second of
three bilateral contests at the Wanderers on Sunday when the Dolphins
competitor sat out.
Both Abbott and the veteran Steyn offer strongly proven,
reassuring credentials in all of track record, temperament and skill to justify
places in the T20 team, but the million-dollar question is whether they could
be accommodated together.
The matter came under the spotlight on SuperSport’s Inside
Edge programme on Tuesday, when Steyn’s former Titans and Proteas team-mate Paul
Harris said: “I really like the look of the side having Dale back in it … it’s
just different when he’s there. I’d like to see him and Rabada bowling together
“Abbott is in the wings, and a pretty consistent bowler, but
I think if you’re picking between Steyn and Abbott I’m with Steyn any day.”
Co-pundit and former national captain Kepler Wessels,
however, made the point that the two being fielded in the same line-up could be
considered in India, where most strong teams will back themselves to post
enough runs among front-line batsmen on the usually willow-friendly tracks
without having to worry too much about the strength or otherwise of the lower
“I do think you can fit both in, and there would (still) be
enough batting, but then it’s a simple equation: one of the all-rounders
(Morris and Wiese) drops out.”
Increasing the temptation to have Abbott in the mix is his
keenness -- and often enough prowess – to offer his services in the pivotal
He would also be particularly motivated to excel in another
major limited-overs tournament after being controversially left out of the team
which lost the World Cup semi-final to New Zealand last year, following alleged
intervention from the corridors of powers to field a less-than-fully-fit Vernon
There will also be some concern over the fact that Morris
(T20 international economy rate 8.79) and Wiese (7.36) can be expensive when
bowling conditions are not especially in their favour, although both men offer
considerably stronger batting oomph than Abbott does.
Nevertheless, wise money suggests that we may, indeed, see a
straight Steyn v Abbott shootout for a berth in the XI at the World T20, with
the former’s superior career aura and statistical record giving him the edge
despite the impediment of rustiness after many weeks of frustrating inactivity.
Steyn has bagged 57 wickets from 39 T20 internationals at an
average of 15.98 and healthy economy of 6.49, whilst Abbott (17 games) boasts
19 scalps at 24.00 and inferior economy rate of 7.83.
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