Cape Town – At least statistically, you would think Rilee
Rossouw is in a precarious position for selection to South Africa’s World Cup
He blew hot – well, hottish – and cold in three batting
opportunities during the 4-1 one-day international series defeat in Australia,
and after a total of nine ODIs his batting average stands at a particularly
That includes as many as four ducks (two in Zimbabwe, two in
New Zealand) in a bumpy start to his 50-overs international career ... although
they do sometimes say that a duck is better than a scratchy, all-at-sea knock of
10 or 15 because pure ill-luck can be a factor in your dismissal almost as
quickly as you have taken guard.
Rossouw has had his share of fortune deserting him in those
circumstances, but when he does get going, he also gives us sufficient evidence
– even if a certain naivety and impatience can also undo him when seemingly
well set – of the classy, emphatic stroke-play he possesses.
When he drives or pulls, he gives the apple a right old
bruising, as it were, and at stages of some his knocks Down Under even the more
one-eyed of the Channel Nine commentators were not slow to acknowledge the
25-year-old’s obvious, abundant talent.
The Knights player also did himself a big favour – just as
aspirant all-rounder-of-sorts Farhaan Behardien did – by saving personal best
for last in the Aussie ODI series as he finally reached the half-century
milestone in the high-scoring Sydney dead-rubber match.
I’d have been a bit less certain if he’d got himself another
of those wretched noughts, for instance, at the SCG, but am now more convinced
than ever that he’ll make the 15-strong World Cup party.
In short, the Proteas have patiently – or so it seems –
invested in Rossouw this year and it would make little sense to panic-sell that
investment so soon before the World Cup gets underway.
He wouldn’t be the first cricketer in history to be a late
bloomer if that is what occurs a little up the line, and hopefully at CWC 2015
Former national captain and yeoman administrator Dr Ali
Bacher made an excellent point this week when he recommended the Proteas place
more of an emphasis on specialists at batting and bowling and not be too
obsessed with “balancing” their team with all-rounders of possibly dubious
quality and limited X-factor.
The left-handed Rossouw is one of those thoroughbred (if
currently imperfect) batsmen clearly able to let rip in a big way, and against
any comer, if the mood and perhaps a dollop of good luck grabs him.
For proof look no further than his scorching 50-ball innings
of 78 and man-of-the-match performance in South Africa’s lone victory at
Adelaide during the Twenty20 international mini-series ahead of the ODIs.
Besides, there is no guarantee Rossouw will be required to
play a consistent part in the Proteas’ “first team” at the tournament anyway;
the regular front five still seems earmarked to be Messrs Amla, De Kock, Du
Plessis, De Villiers and a returning Duminy.
The fresh-faced Free Stater would in all likelihood be the
primary reserve specialist batsman in the event of injury or grievous loss of
form by someone, although that is still an important base to have covered in
Also counting strongly in Rossouw’s favour, I believe, is
that there is really no further 50-overs cricket ahead of the CWC squad
announcement reportedly in early January – even the ODIs in the summer West
Indies series on our soil only commence on January 16.
The domestic Momentum One Day Cup competition is also in
hiatus until January 23 now, so players outside the present Proteas frame do
not have further chances in the most fitting environment to mount late charges.
The top two run-scorers after five or six matches for their
franchises are thirtysomethings Andrew Puttick and Morne van Wyk, with the
infinitely more raw Theunis de Bruyn of the Titans lying third – some people
are throwing about his name for the CWC pot but that would be a massive call
with no prior ODI experience of any kind beneath his belt, wouldn’t it?
Another top-fiver statistically, the Warrriors’ Colin
Ingram, who has sampled a fair bit of Proteas duty previously and not always
had the fairest of deals, has effectively given up on further SA aspirations by
signing three-year Kolpak terms with Glamorgan.
So while some lingering reservations from critics will
understandably stalk him, Rilee Rossouw can probably pretty confidently train
his thoughts toward a maiden World Cup campaign.
I wouldn’t discount at all the possibility that he makes the
most of it if game time comes his way.
There’s just something about the player, even in his
sometimes problematic teeth-cutting times with South Africa, that harks back to
the early adventures for their country of names like Kallis, Cullinan and Gibbs
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