Why Rilee will make CWC cut

2014-11-26 13:00
Rilee Rossouw (AFP)

Cape Town – At least statistically, you would think Rilee Rossouw is in a precarious position for selection to South Africa’s World Cup 2015 squad.

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 shaky 16.

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 itself.

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 the squad.

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 ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  rilee rossouw  |  cricket

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