Cape Town – Embattled leg-spinner Imran Tahir is still
earmarked to have a role in the Proteas’ Test plans despite his mauling by the
Australians at Adelaide Oval recently.
Tahir was predictably dropped from the decisive third Test
in Perth after his nought for 260 analysis a game earlier, and left-arm spinner
Robin Peterson’s six-wicket success at the WACA clearly gives him the inside
lane for selection for the first Test against New Zealand at Newlands from
But at a post-tour media briefing along with coach Gary
Kirsten at that venue here on Wednesday, Test captain Graeme Smith said: “We
are certainly not writing Imran off – he’s going to play a key part for this
Test team going forward somewhere.
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“Our challenge is to get his confidence back up; he has a
good idea of what he needs to work on. Hopefully he’ll come back here and see a
lot of success in the first-class game again.”
But he also dropped an understandably heavy hint that
Peterson would keep the specialist spinner’s slot for the time being.
“I think Robin has put in a strong performance (in Perth).
The wickets that he got for us were a key factor in that game. He provides an
all-rounder option as well.
“He has been around the squad for a period of time now and
fought his way back into all environments. Robbie was also one of our most
successful performers at the ICC World Twenty20.”
Kirsten, for his part, took the opportunity to offer
encouragement to Dean Elgar, the left-handed batsman who became the first South
African to record a pair on debut since tail-ender Allan Donald at Bridgetown,
Barbados, in 1992.
“You can’t read anything into his (under-performance at
Perth) at all. Just because he doesn’t perform in one Test match certainly
doesn’t mean that he not a valuable part.
“He’s with us because he’s done exceptionally well at first-class
level over a period of time and as much as we can we’ll give him a really good
Especially assuming that veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis
is able to bowl again soon following his hamstring injury, giving the Proteas
back their fifth option on that front, there is probably a fair chance Elgar
will play against the Black Caps in the New Year Test.
Judging by his words at the press conference on the team’s
ability to field a No 7 batsman, given the luxury of Kallis and wicketkeeper AB
de Villiers effectively being two all-rounders in the top five, Kirsten is keen
to keep the batting particularly well stocked.
“I think one could argue that that’s our X-factor at the
moment ... that we can pick a No 7 batsman in our Test side.
“It certainly helped in some of our very crucial Test
matches both in England and Australia. There might come a time where we need to
look at it another way, but at the moment (as the XI is structured) we regard
that as our X-factor.”
Kirsten also told Sport24 there was a “possibility” of De
Villiers getting some respite from the glove-work during the home one-day
obligations this season against New Zealand and then Pakistan.
“It hasn’t been discussed among the selectors yet. We’re
having a meeting some time next week. It certainly is a possibility; his
workload is pretty hectic at present.
“But he’s also only kept in six Test matches and I thought
he kept outstandingly in Australia. As good as I’ve seen, so I was really
encouraged by that.”
Probed about whether Thami Tsolekile, who has been the
reserve Test wicketkeeper on the visits to both England and Australia in recent
months, would get an opportunity at some stage, Kirsten said: “It’s difficult
to say. I feel that our Test team is the flagship of South African cricket and
it has had incredible success because we have players with a lot of experience,
and a team that has great balance.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to take our results (as a current
combination) lightly, though that’s not to say nobody else can play.
“Anyone can play in the Test team, but our combination at
the moment is a very successful one. We come back very proud and as No 1 side.
“We do make every effort to give guys opportunities in all
forms of the game at Proteas level. We think long and hard about selections,
(but) this team can stand tall about what it has achieved.”
He said trying to unearth an eventual replacement for the
ageing, multi-talented Kallis was among priorities.
“Yes, we’ve got to work on that, without a doubt. Jacques is
loving his cricket at the moment and is keen to keep playing so we want to
“We’ve got to be mindful that we need to broaden our base
and I’ve been encouraged by some new guys who have come in during this series.
“Without having Jacques might affect our balance in a way
but we’ll deal with that when the time comes. We’ll certainly keep the old dog
on the road for as long as possible!
“We need to consider (scaling down) his bowling -- it was
good to play in a Test match a few days ago where he has batted only; a chance
to see what we could do with just three seamers, and it went exceptionally
well, I thought.”
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