Cape Town - Reeza Hendricks should be a freshening element of the Proteas’ Test batting plans when they resume five-day combat later in the year.
That is the view of former national team opening batsman Adam Bacher, who played 19 Tests and 13 one-day internationals between 1996 and 2005.
Nor does he feel India -- the formidable, scheduled first opponents away when South Africa open their account in the all-new ICC World Test Championship in October -- are the worst team for Hendricks to be blooded against despite the unique challenges posed by Subcontinental pitches.
The Proteas are in a sudden state of disarray at Test level, all the good work of their 3-0 clean sweep of Pakistan having come crashing down with a first-time, 0-2 home upset at the hands of modest Sri Lanka.
Bacher is a confessed, long-time fan of the stylish right-hander, whose main priority at present is to nail down a place in the Proteas’ 15-strong squad for the World Cup in the UK from late May.
The 29-year-old from Kimberley, who plays his franchise cricket for Bacher’s long-time former side the Lions, has produced patchily for the country so far in both white-ball landscapes, but when he gets going he has tended to look notably authoritative and easy-on-the-eye.
Says Bacher: “From the first time I saw him, and I obviously mean way earlier than this season, his movements at the crease just seemed so compact and economical.
“You have to be cautious when making comparisons, but I’d say he is a bit Virat Kohli-like in that respect.
“I have enjoyed watching Reeza play for some time … he is quite wristy and generates power with minimal effort. He needs a broader platform, to me -- a Test opportunity.”
Bacher believes that Hendricks being on the brink of 30 is no bad thing.
“(Former Australian captain) Mark Taylor once said that batsmen are probably at their best between the ages of 29 and 33; I know his first-class statistics (6,916 runs at 33.09) don’t look quite as good as his talent suggests, but he may simply be a late bloomer now coming into his own.
“It may not seem the most obvious place, but why not give Reeza his first Test exposure in India?
“It would be better than blooding him in, say, English conditions, where someone like Heino Kuhn was thrown in during the 2017 tour and found it tough.
“India would actually be a decent place for him to start: it is easier to get in early in the top order and potentially to prosper while the pitch is still good for batting, rather than going in at No 5 or 6.
“Reeza has a technique best suited to being in the top three against the new ball and has good attacking intent, the quickest of movement … for long-term success as an opener you must ultimately be able to see the ball early enough to put pressure on the bowlers and he can do that.”
Bacher says he feels the Proteas’ recent Test woes as a batting unit have at least partly been down to problems in that very area.
“You need enough guys in your top six to be able to put real fear into bowlers, but that has changed a fair bit since AB (de Villiers) retired and Hashim (Amla) seems to have gone beyond his best.”
He also believes that emerging, potential Test batsmen are done no favours, from their school days, by playing too much “formula-driven” limited-overs cricket.
“Ninety percent of the schools’ game is not declaration cricket nowadays … more time-based stuff is needed in South Africa.”
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