Cape Town – It is unlikely that there will be a clear
favourite at the swansong ICC Champions Trophy in the United Kingdom during
June, giving the Proteas as good a chance as any team.
South Africa still lie fourth on the one-day international
rankings after completion of a satisfying enough 3-2 series victory over
similar mid-tablers Pakistan at Willowmoore Park on Sunday.
They did depend pretty heavily on the formidable weight of
runs from AB de Villiers (367 at an average of almost 92) for the success in a
competitive, topsy-turvy set of fixtures, but at the same time the captain’s
plunder was a reminder that the national team will always boast several
brilliant individuals, even if the current, overall team dynamic still seems to
come up a tad short for true cohesiveness.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the Proteas earned
this series win without a few established stars, enabling certain fringe
players to further – at least in some cases – their credentials and experience
of the big-time.
The rest of the world probably has no special reason to fear
South Africa’s ODI class of 2013, as it is nothing like the finished article
the Test squad is, but at the same time South Africa also has no grounds for
fearing the remainder of the pack, either.
India stand atop the rankings, and actually square up to the
Proteas in the tourney opener (Group B) at Cardiff on June 6, before De
Villiers and company also meet Pakistan and West Indies with the top two sides across
the two groups cracking semi-final berths.
That country has come off a 4-0 home Test series crushing of
Australia, but whether at five-day or one-day level, the Indians are inevitably
much more formidable on their own turf than away from the Subcontinent.
The South African selectors are unlikely to be too
revolutionary in picking their 15-strong squad for the event, although room
will have to be made for indispensible all-rounder Jacques Kallis (shrewdly
rested against Pakistan) and also JP Duminy, as long as he has suitably
recovered by then from his long-term injury.
Assuming that Graeme Smith and Faf du Plessis, both of whom
got injured during the Pakistan series, are also back in the saddle, players
like Kyle Abbott, Aaron Phangiso and possibly one of Colin Ingram or Farhaan
Behardien may have to be sacrificed for the UK mission.
The left-handed Ingram has certainly shown he can play at
international level, but he has a bit of a reputation at present for either
“going big or not at all” – as evidenced by a terrific first-up century against
Pakistan at Bloemfontein but then further scores of 0, 17, 0 and 15.
Middle-order customer Behardien, by contrast, produced
important little cameos at the crease in at least three of the five games
against the Pakistanis, so he might pip Ingram to a spot if it does come down
to one or the other – the latter might become the designated standby batsman
South Africa’s “issues” around the No 7 spot or thereabouts
in the order are showing some signs of being resolved, as both David Miller
(albeit batsman only) and the more versatile Ryan McLaren rather re-announced
themselves during the latest series.
There is possibly a case for taking along a second
specialist spinner, although Phangiso is also a left-armer, so it would seldom
make sense fielding he and the infinitely more experienced Robin Peterson
together – I still believe the Proteas miss steely package Johan Botha more
than they realise.
If Duminy is fighting fit on all fronts, his useful off-spin
does mean that the squad at least has “one and a half” spinners in the ranks.
Quinton de Kock? The Lions rookie has a few lingering
technical shortcomings at the crease, but his raw talent is worth having as a
possible mystery factor to many opponents – and with De Villiers sometimes
troubled by his back, he would be extremely valuable as immediate wicket-keeping
My preferred 15-man SA squad, which might vary little from the
AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Graeme Smith,
Jacques Kallis, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Robin
Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Rory Kleinveldt, Farhaan
Behardien, Quinton de Kock
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