Cape Town – South Africa’s selectors are going to have to be
guided primarily by instinct and memory when they assemble the Proteas squad
for the keenly-anticipated first Test against Australia at Centurion from
They are not going to have the benefit of gauging any
up-to-the-minute performances in domestic first-class combat ahead of the visit
of the resurgent Baggy Greens, even if there is a good case for saying the
squad will have an overwhelmingly settled look to it anyway.
Having come off a 1-0 mini-series triumph over India to only
reinforce their position at the top of the world rankings, wholesale
alterations are unlikely.
But the sudden retirement of Jacques Kallis leaves a rather
obvious, major hole to fill, not least because of the balance he brought the
side through his all-round skills.
In some senses Andrew Hudson’s panel are thus looking to
plug “two” vacancies because they have to mull over whether to replace him with
a specialist batsman (albeit not necessarily going straight into his No 4 slot,
where the suitably dogged Faf du Plessis may well be promoted instead) or to
look at a bowler who also offers lower-end batting possibilities: candidates
like Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell come to mind in that regard.
So in a normal season, if you like, the next few weeks might
offer a few challengers for the Kallis void a great opportunity to stake strong
claims through weight of performance in four-day cricket, the closest cousin of
the Test environment.
But Cricket South Africa – not without some justification,
considering the ailing domestic attendances – chose to compartmentalise the
fixture list to a good degree for 2013/14, seeking to have top national stars
available as much as possible for a non-stop period of Ram Slam T20 Challenge
action throughout January and a bit beyond.
It is the competition likeliest to aid struggling franchise
coffers through gate receipts.
The down side of that roster formula is that the Sunfoil
Series only resumes, following a gap since before Christmas, on the very
weekend that the SuperSport Park Test against the Aussies begins.
Until then, the local diet is all T20, with the final
scheduled for February 9, a mere three days before the three-Test series gets
There is a four-day tour warm-up match for Michael Clarke’s
team at Potchefstroom from February 5-8, but by then the Proteas are likely to
have their squad ducks in a row, even if a member of the SA Invitation XI
tackling the tourists, perhaps, does something out of this world performance-wise
The situation is arguably no comfort for a talented
youngster like Quinton de Kock, who has been taking one-day international
cricket by storm in recent times, but is still considered by some critics as “not
ready yet” for Tests.
The baby-faced Lions stroke-player, however, does boast an
impressive first-class average of almost 52 after 19 matches in that format.
A couple of big 150s, say, from the 21-year-old left-hander
in any Sunfoil Series matches ahead of the Aussies’ visit would really have put
pressure on Hudson’s panel to pick him.
Instead, he may well get some good “short and sharp” runs
for the Lions in the T20 landscape, but stay pigeon-holed as a limited-overs
factor for the moment and not crack the squad nod for the big Test series on
Someone like Dean Elgar is in the extended SA Test squad
anyway, and he too might well have welcomed some Sunfoil Series activity over
the remainder of this month to emphasise his credentials for a return to the
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