Why South Africa need to reformulate their Test squad
A complete Test squad revamp with an old-new mix might just be what is required to drag South Africa out of the pit they find themselves in.
After an inspiring Stuart Broad blitz which saw the Proteas crumble miraculously to hand England a series win, and lend India the numero uno status in the latest test rankings, South Africa’s disastrous 2015 seems to have stretched even further, with no wins in the last nine test encounters.
Though many would speculate it was a Broad special and South Africa (CSA) is on a lean patch, but there are obvious reasons, which Cricket South Africa are still keeping private, which rather needs some re-formulation.
Batting problems post legends’ retirements
Starting off with the batting link of the Proteas, it has to be sorted out in a big way. The Proteas no longer have the proud tag of invincible tourists, nor they have the numero uno status in their grasp, for they have conceded both. For obvious reasons, it’s high time they move into a transition phase, with nothing to lose, before it gets too late.
Losing Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith in quick succession has taken a lot of life out of the Proteas unit. Now, they basically revolve around the likes of Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, yet there are concerns over De Villiers’ retirement plans.
Dean Elgar, as I had written in my earlier articles is an ideal replacement for Smith at the top, who has a huge potential to shine internationally. His gutsy knocks on a difficult Indian tour and superb batting efforts back in South Africa have been appreciated by many. He has consistently given his team good foundations at the top and is deserving of a permanent slot.
His partner, however, has been a one-match wonder, as expected. Stiaan van Zyl had a hundred on debut but ever since then, he has virtually flopped in every innings. So a replacement has to be in place.
Temba Bavuma, considering his age and temperament fits the role. His fielding dynamics in addition to opening with Elgar can turn out to be a brilliant move. Statistically his averages way better than Van Zyl, with consistent scores in the middle-order.
Amla is too good to be replaced and so is Du Plessis, both of whom have proven test records, though lately, they endured a lean patch.
The overburdened De Villiers
De Villiers is a huge concern lately. Not only does he throw a hint about his retirement plans, his performances, lately in the field bitterly suggest that his workload is getting a lot of stuff out of him. His fielding, both, in Newlands, and more visibly at the Wanderers, seemed anything but DeVilliers-like. Dropped chances at slips, missed run-outs, jittery temperament while batting are not what the Proteas need from their premier batsman. Unquestionably he is a modern great, yet his Test future is in a serious hole.
Considering his ambition of playing the 2019 World Cup in England, where South Africa can have another shot at the elusive glory, CSA should drop him from the Test set-up, and allow him to get sufficient match practice in the one-dayers and T20s.
Moreover, captaincy-wise, he is not a great choice. De Villiers is already approaching 33, and it is a good time for him to pave the way for someone else.
The next focus would be on the middle-order, which has been a constant niggle for the Proteas. JP Duminy does not seem to bring stability any longer, his inconsistency and injuries are hardly doing any good to the squad. An urgent replacement, therefore, is required for De Villiers and Duminy.
Dane Villas and Quinton De Kock- either of them has to play, as they are the currently available wicket-keepers and they should be stuck to, regardless of the crisis.
Robin Peterson has to be immediately called upon to add balance in the spin bowling link and late-order batting. His domestic record and international test record as an all-rounder has been exceptional, so it makes good sense if he and Chris Morris become an integral part of the future South African middle-order.
Jean Symes, of Highveld Lions can be looked upon as a good replacement in the middle-order in the absence of De Villiers, or even Colin Ingram, who has pretty much been out of the radar can be considered for Test selection. Symes’ all-round skills will again come handy if South Africa requires.
Bowling- the only positive
The bowling seems reasonably well placed, with Kagiso Rabada making good progress. Vernon Philander’s fitness would be a huge concern, and whether he can emulate his previous best remains to be seen.
The striking duo of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel seems to be the way as of now, with either Kyle Abbott acting as a back-up bowler if either of them is absent.
So here is the team South Africa should build for the future:
Openers: Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma
Next 3: Hashim Amla, Faf Du Plessis, and Jean Symes/Colin Ingram
Middle order: Dane Villas/ Quinton De Kock, Robin Peterson, and Chris Morris
Bowlers: Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and Kagiso Rabada/ Vernon Philander