Cape Town - South Africa need to be wary of their one-day
international team taking on too much of a “Dad’s Army” feel ... especially in
terms of the effect on mobility as a fielding unit.
There is a growing likelihood - as they further their
preparations with a looming, three-match tour of Australia in early November -
that the squad they take to the 2019 World Cup in England will feature several
It has been anything but a well-kept secret for some time that
the tournament, between late May and mid-July, should see the quite pronounced
end of an era for the Proteas: several stalwarts are likely to bow out of the
international game upon completion.
But against that backdrop, is there also a danger that the
national team will carry an unbalanced look at the World Cup itself, with too
much of a potentially detrimental leaning toward ageing players?
Now some seven months out from CWC 2019, there is a real
possibility that their squad (traditionally made up of 15 names) will be
dominated by players over the age of 30 - and in some cases very significantly
By recalling this week middle-order batsman and occasional
part-time seamer Farhaan Behardien, 35, and all-rounder Chris Morris, 31, to
the party to tour Down Under shortly, those two will naturally be hoping it
leads to an onward nod for the World Cup.
But the pair also only add now to the growing list of
thirtysomething contenders for CWC passages.
It is already virtually a fait accompli that in-form
leg-spinner Imran Tahir will make the cut, although by the time the event comes
around he will have clicked into the rare breed of cricketers playing in World
Cups at the age of 40 or more - he reaches that milestone in March.
Perhaps the novelty factor dims a bit, admittedly, through the
fact that the record age for World Cup participation remains Holland’s
Barbadian-born batsman Nolan Clarke, who graced the 1996 tournament at a
But Tahir will still be much more of an exception than a
norm, age-wise, at CWC 2019, despite his evergreen skill and enthusiasm and
conscious, fruit-bearing effort to work especially hard on his fielding agility
in late career.
He looks like being far from alone in the “veteran” category
for the Proteas, though.
Bearing in mind that Morris has a very good chance of going - Behardien may have to push really hard over the next few months to clinch a
ticket - South Africa will also, fitness and other factors permitting, almost
certainly include Faf du Plessis (34), Hashim Amla (he will be 36 by then), JP
Duminy (he’ll be 35), Dale Steyn (35) ... and perhaps also seam-bowling ace
Vernon Philander (34 during the tournament) if it is acknowledged his strengths
will come in handy in English climes.
Also to chew on is that big-hitting “finisher” David Miller
will turn 30 during the World Cup.
That serves as an indication that the average age of the
Proteas squad at next year’s event may well be a lot higher than is generally
Not helping the danger that they will not exactly be a
collective bunch of whippets in the field is that the other SA “mystery
spinner” well in contention for a first personal crack at a World Cup, Tabraiz
Shamsi, is also slightly cumbersome and erratic as a fielder.
Shamsi is a more agreeable 28, but his conditioning is perhaps
not as tip-top as it could be and it would enhance his selection cause for the
World Cup if he can trim down a little in the interim period to enhance his
mobility - he could be an invaluable spin ally to Tahir if the pitches in the
UK are receptive to turn, as some experts believe they will.
One saving grace when it comes to the risk of a Proteas side
being made up noticeably of veterans is that a few of them have managed to
remain suitably nimble and sharp in the field despite the inevitable ravages of
Into that category fall men like Du Plessis and Duminy,
while the likes of speedsters Steyn and Morris are renowned for their strong
Still, particularly when South Africa’s rich tradition for
sublime Rhodes, Cronje and Gibbs-like exploits in the field is taken into
account, coach Ottis Gibson and his lieutenants may have to think carefully
about how they shape their XIs in limited-overs cricket over the next few months to ensure they curb any overly ponderous tendencies ...
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