Klaasen's World Cup dream at a crossroads

2019-01-17 13:04
Heinrich Klaasen (Gallo)
Heinrich Klaasen (Gallo)

Cape Town - When news broke on Wednesday that Quinton de Kock would be rested for the first two ODIs against Pakistan, one man who would have taken notice right away is Heinrich Klaasen

De Kock's absence means that Klaasen will keep wicket in Port Elizabeth on Saturday and in Durban on Tuesday. Those two matches, all of a sudden, have become massive for the 27-year-old's 2019 World Cup chances. 

De Kock is expected to be named in the squad for the final three ODIs at Centurion, Wanderers and Newlands, and when that happens Klaasen will no longer be guaranteed a game. 

While he may be the reserve wicketkeeper in the ODI set-up now, that will not be enough for Klaasen to punch his ticket to England. If he gets on that plane, it will be as a batsman first, and that is what he needs to prove over the next few days. 

From the moment he burst onto the international stage with some explosive knocks on the T20 and ODI stages against India at the beginning of last year, Klaasen has had a weight of expectation hovering around him. 

He promised so much in those early innings with his fearlessness and natural aggression giving him the look of a player that the Proteas could use in their efforts to win a World Cup. 

It hasn't quite clicked, though. 

A knock of 59 in Paarl against Zimbabwe last October is his only ODI half-century, and a lack of consistency sees him average just 25.1 after 12 knocks. 

The Proteas top order for the World Cup is pretty much settled. 

De Kock will open with Hashim Amla, Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram are fighting it out for the No 3 berth, skipper Faf du Plessis will bat at No 4 while JP Duminy and David Miller are expected to bat at No 5 and No 6, respectively. 

Duminy's fitness is a slight concern, but he should be back for five ODIs against Sri Lanka in March. 

Klaasen's only shot at the starting XI, then, could come in the No 7 role where much uncertainty remains ahead of the World Cup.

The Proteas will, in all likelihood, opt for a genuine allrounder in that position given their need for an extra bowler. 

It all points towards Klaasen and Rassie van der Dussen fighting each other for the role of 'substitute finisher' at the World Cup. There can surely be room for only one in the squad, and whoever that someone is will probably only get a game if there is an injury to one of Duminy or Miller or if the Proteas want to gamble on going in batting heavy. 

Van der Dussen certainly looks the part right now. 

He obliterated attacks in the Mzansi Super League last year, finishing the tournament as comfortably the leading run scorer with 469 runs at an average of 58.62 for the Jozi Stars.  

Klaasen, meanwhile, scored 67 runs at 11.16 in that tournament.

Van der Dussen, just recently, has forced his way into the World Cup equation and, on form, he probably deserves a crack. 

But, while De Kock has his feet up somewhere, Klaasen will be given two more shots at wrestling back the ascendency in the race to England. 

Only 15 can go, so it is inevitable that some will be left disappointed, but Klaasen can at least take comfort in the knowledge that, for now, his destiny is in his own hands.

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...


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