Cape Town - A second wicketkeeper looks increasingly like too much of a luxury for South Africa to carry at the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
Instead the swelling scenario is that opening batsman and gloveman Quinton de Kock will carry the burden on his own in that department, the Proteas simply hoping that he doesn’t pick up an injury during the nine confirmed pre-knockout matches and then a possible semi-final and final.
Unless the national selectors and head coach Ottis Gibson are surprisingly insistent that they have a second specialist ‘keeper within the 15-strong party, an obvious place doesn’t exactly cry out for an on-tour “reserve” in that department.
If that proves the case, then South Africa will be minus that individual for the first time since the 2003 World Cup - conveniently staged on our shores, meaning swifter access to an emergency gloveman if necessary - when Mark Boucher handled the chore alone.
In 2015 they still had versatile batting superstar AB de Villiers able to help out behind the stumps, with De Kock also very much in the mix, in 2011 it was De Villiers and Morne van Wyk, and in 2007 Boucher and De Villiers.
But every tournament before that featured just a sole out-and-out SA wicketkeeper: Boucher in each of 2003 and 1999 (also in England, like the upcoming one), Steve Palframan in 1996 and Dave Richardson in the country’s maiden 1992 appearance in Australia and New Zealand.
A few months ago, there would have been a rather better chance of Heinrich Klaasen, who has now played 23 white-ball internationals for the Proteas (14 ODI, nine Twenty20) making the World Cup party.
But while his ‘keeping itself has been largely tidy, his big-striking batting has been well less than productive for the SA cause in the 2018/19 summer so far.
Klaasen was dismissed for two off 10 balls in the dead-rubber T20 defeat to Pakistan at Centurion on Wednesday night, and had had curtailed attempts to remind of his stroke-playing worth in the prior two, where he registered five not out each time.
He got a duck in his lone knock during the ODI series, at Kingsmead, and sports a top score of 14 from four innings in total since he last shone in the 50-over landscape - achieving his lone half-century thus far with 59 against modest Zimbabwe at Paarl back in early October.
Just as worryingly, he failed to set the inaugural Mzansi Super League alight with the blade, managing a disappointing 67 runs for the Durban Heat in seven turns at the crease for an average of 11.16.
All of this hardly counts in his favour for a World Cup ticket, and he may well now also not be included in the Proteas’ ODI plans for Sri Lanka’s imminent tour here when key player De Kock should return from a breather.
Stiffening competition in other departments hardly helps Klaasen’s CWC case: the Proteas can only take 15 players and among those will almost certainly have to be a second attacking spinner (Tabraiz Shamsi, backing up Imran Tahir), as well as a sufficient stock of bowling all-rounders - Chris Morris compellingly re-entered the radar by coming to the fore in a dual capacity despite Wednesday’s T20 defeat - to supplement the more outright pace arsenal.
Meanwhile on the batting front, Rassie van der Dussen and Reeza Hendricks are pushing ever harder for berths among the more staple characters to the World Cup, and Aiden Markram’s candle may not quite have burned out yet for consideration, either.
While far from ideal, it is not at all uncommon for teams - both major and minnow - to travel to World Cups with only one recognised gloveman, so selection boss Linda Zondi and company should feel reasonably comfortable on that score if they do decide it is going to be “Quinny or bust” as their tournament wicketkeeper from late May through to July.
They would just have to ensure that, considering it will be well into the South African off-season by then, someone (whether it is Klaasen or another player) is kept suitably fit and primed at the trade back home ... or possibly even involved in league cricket or the like in the UK, making him so much closer in travel terms if urgently needed.
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