Cape Town – It
will bubble and bubble … but will it remain largely hot air?
The issue of
South Africa and two attack-minded spinners in their game-day bowling arsenal at
the 2019 World Cup keeps coming up, and understandably so given global trends
in the one-day international format.
sides, including the very best there currently are, will not be shy to field a
“mystery” spinner and be as tempted to field a duo if conditions – a great
unknown in England in early-summer, as so much could be weather-dependent –
appear to warrant it.
seems fairly close to certain: both of the Proteas’ usefully less-than-orthodox
tweakers, evergreen Imran Tahir and the increasingly street-smart Tabraiz
Shamsi, will be in the 15-strong squad.
Zondi’s national selection panel must know that they will be seriously castigated
by pundits and public alike back home if the pitches prove dry and turning in
the UK from late May through to early July and they do not, at very least, have
that second specialist at their fingertips.
belief is that both Tahir and Shamsi will be on the plane, and that the more
pertinent issue will be whether they do end up operating in tandem for specific
matches at the tournament.
Bear in mind
that if it is gloomy, damp and overcast -- either enduringly or at specific
times and varying venues – paradises for seam bowling may also be a notable
feature of the World Cup.
ought to be no less decently-geared in that department, of course, so Zondi and
company need not have sleepless nights on that front.
certainly in the modern South African DNA to believe the country’s consistently
skilled and aggressive battery of pacemen will be effective in most conditions,
and regardless of format.
hallmark has probably only been heightened, too, by the presence of a certain
Ottis Gibson as the Proteas’ head coach: the Barbadian was an illustrious
top-level quickie himself, a renowned fast-bowling scientist and mentor, and
clearly has a special passion in that area.
Put it this
way: he tends not to like putting out SA XIs with even a hint of short-staffing
in pace and seam.
Proteas, collectively, would be fiercely grappling their instincts if, on any
red-letter dates at the World Cup, there was a suggestion from the pitch that
it would be worth jettisoning a speedster to ensure that Tahir and Shamsi could
provide a potential 20 overs between them.
reason to suspect that they will lean more toward a “halfway house” approach on
the spin front, if you like, is the likelihood that a fit-again middle-order
batting veteran JP Duminy will be firmly ensconced back in the team.
He has not
seen service during the Pakistan ODI series as he continues his patient rehab
from right-shoulder surgery, but if he is deemed ready in time for the
limited-overs portion of Sri Lanka’s tour in March, the 192-cap stalwart should
be able to use it as a stepping stone back into the mix for CWC 2019.
course, is generally considered a “five-overs factor” with his tidy enough
part-time off-spin in ODIs and if he is playing at the tournament he
automatically becomes an attractive compromise of sorts, as second slow bowler
in the team: the useful bit of security.
Proteas be brave enough to play all of Tahir, Shamsi and Duminy in the same
side at the World Cup? I wouldn’t be too quick to open my wallet in favour of
betting on that likelihood.
Africa are, indeed, favourably inclined toward fielding both front-liners in
the more pressing business further up the line, time is running short for them
to establish it as something of a habit, a routine.
experts believe they missed a trick across the first two ODIs against Pakistan
(loss in Port Elizabeth, win in Durban) by not letting both loose in those
often spin-friendly landscapes.
now shifts to successive matches on the Highveld – Centurion on Friday,
Johannesburg on Sunday – before wrapping up at Newlands; they all seem less
likely places for a stiffened emphasis on spin.
there has been strong urging from the SuperSport commentary box, especially,
for the Proteas to try to strike more noticeably through spin – the argument
being that wickets are the best method of curbing run-rates – in the middle
portions of the enemy innings.
quality, attacking spinners in your middle periods is a real asset,” reminded
SA captaincy and batting legend Graeme Smith during the Kingsmead fixture,
where Tahir was “benched” and Shamsi grabbed three scalps despite taking some late
punishment (most bowlers did) from free-spirited tail-ender Hasan Ali.
believes that the International Cricket Council-supervised surfaces at the
World Cup will be responsive to spin, and clearly fancies Shamsi operating
alongside the more established top choice, Tahir.
looks in good condition as well; he’s trimmed down a little bit,” the legend
Proteas left-arm spinner Robin Peterson, meanwhile, reminded: “India use both
their wrist spinners (Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav) together to good
effect … there’s no reason we can’t either.”
more neutral Mark Nicholas appears to feel a twin onslaught from Tahir and
Shamsi should become a more frequent occurrence in South Africa’s plans.
got that boyish enthusiasm … it rubs off, creates that bit of electricity.”
But will the
Proteas respond to the welter of encouragement on the Tahir-Shamsi alliance when
the World Cup comes around?
early forecast: perhaps don’t hold your breath …
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