Cape Town - Risking deployment of batsman JP Duminy for full 10-over spells may be one way the Proteas try to deal with the solitary “problem position” in their team at the World Cup.
As stated earlier this week, South Africa pretty much have 10 berths in their XI locked up, on current form and reputation, but with a lingering area of great concern being the No 7 slot and what sort of player to have occupy it.
The incumbent is Farhaan Behardien, the Titans’ all-rounder-of-sorts who has been struggling to make an impression at his primary batting trade, but whose gripping medium-pace adds variety to the attack and could be a surprise factor on the expected slower pitches of New Zealand, in particular, where the Proteas play some of their pool matches.
Behardien has plenty of critics, some of whom perhaps unfairly may have overlooked how decently he bowled - shouldn’t he have had more than four overs, in retrospect? - in the narrow loss to West Indies in the fourth one-day international at St George’s Park on Sunday.
He picked up the important wickets of Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdin - top-fivers, both - during the course of his canny duty and was also less active in the extras column (one wide) than a few supposedly more senior members of the SA seam battery that day.
A personal belief is that Behardien, a nimble fielder as well, could yet prove a worthwhile enough joint-element of a 10-over stint with off-spinner Duminy at the World Cup, although that should also not be interpreted too quickly as a ringing endorsement of his right to a place in the side - yes, he needs to step up far more convincingly at the crease.
In short, he’s no hard and fast solution.
Inevitably as a result of those batting reservations swirling around him, the debate will linger about who offers best alternative security to the side at No 7; it is a position fellow squad member Wayne Parnell probably also aspires to and the left-arm bowling all-rounder had his moments in Port Elizabeth.
During this week, however, SA legend Graeme Pollock added a slightly new twist to the argument in his column on the SA Cricketmag website by suggesting the Proteas may be best served by simply fielding an out-and-out specialist batsman there - the highly unpredictable Rilee Rossouw - and then relying on Duminy to offer up a full 10-over allocation.
Pollock says he feels the little Cape Cobras star is “good enough” to give 10 overs, while also believing Rossouw is capable of powerful strokeplay toward the back end of the South African innings.
“Even if he (Duminy) goes for a few runs, the Proteas will make up the difference with that extended batting order.”
Point taken ... but can South Africa really risk playing a strictly five-man attack that includes as many as two spinners - impressive specialist Imran Tahir, plus Duminy - in Australasian conditions unlikely to demand such a heavy emphasis on the slow stuff?
It is difficult to resist speculating that they would be in real trouble if one of their frontline bowlers picked up a freak injury in a match, perhaps even before being required to turn his arm over (it happens).
AB de Villiers may be a multi-talented miracle man, but it would be asking an awful lot of the captain to bowl 10 overs of his own gentle, trundled fare for the first time in ODIs.
The other question is: can even Duminy realistically do a full stint regularly?
His track record in ODIs tends to suggest not, although, in fairness, he has often before been a sixth bowling element anyway rather than fifth.
Duminy has bowled 85 times in a swollen 133-match ODI career thus far, bagging 47 wickets at 40.78 (economy 5.05) with a personal best of three for 31.
In that time, however, he has only ever served up a full 10 on four occasions, and just once in Australasian conditions, when he bowled 10-0-52-1 against the very Aussies in Sydney in a victorious Proteas series in early 2009.
It is also 23 “bowls” since he last completed a maximum quota, against Sri Lanka in Pallekele in July 2013, so it is not as though he is currently primed - he is not long off a major injury, too - to carry that burden.
If South Africa do, perhaps unexpectedly at this stage, change tack and decide to entrust Duminy with 10 overs, they had better begin the experiment quite smartly, as there is only one remaining ODI against the Windies - Centurion on Wednesday, 13:30 - and two on-site warm-up matches ahead of CWC 2015 itself.
This may lose me some friends, but I can’t help feeling that, given the modest range of squad options, the No 7 slot is still best occupied, for the sake of balance and despite limitations in each case, by either of Behardien or Parnell ...
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