Batting selection puzzle for Proteas


But how do eight go into six? That’s the conundrum facing Proteas coach Russell Domingo and the rest of the selection panel - Linda Zondi (convenor), Hussein Manack, Ashwell Prince and Errol Stewart - for next month’s ICC World T20 in India.

The eight batsmen in the T20 squad are Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, captain Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, David Miller and Rilee Rossouw.

Domingo said that he has always preferred having five front-line bowlers in the team as there must be “no easy let-off for the opposition with the ball”, and that he enjoyed “having five front-line bowlers and a sixth and seventh part-timer, because I feel bowlers will win you a lot of contests. If you don’t have that, your batting comes under a little bit of pressure”.

If that is the case, then Friday’s T20 should see Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott, Chris Morris, David Wiese and Imran Tahir making up the bowling attack, with Dale Steyn to replace one of the pacemen once he regains his fitness, while a second spin option in Aaron Phangiso could come into the picture on turning tracks in India.

But Domingo likes all-rounders at numbers seven and eight in the batting line-up, who are likely to be Wiese and Morris at the moment. That leaves six specialist places open for the eight batsmen…

What complicates matters in the T20 line-up is that peripheral ODI figures such as David Miller and Rilee Rossouw have proved themselves as top players in the 20-over format, whether it is for South Africa or for their IPL franchises.

In addition, De Kock is back in the T20 squad after missing out on the India T20s last October, when De Villiers took the wicket-keeping gloves. The left-handed batsman and wicket-keeper is in irresistible form at the moment, and almost cannot be left out.

“Look, I reckon someone has got to sit out. I like an all-rounder at seven and eight, and then three bowlers. Rilee wasn’t in India, Quinton wasn’t there for the T20s, and they are both back in the mix and Quinton is in great form. So, those are guys who are very much in contention,” Domingo said this week.

“I don’t know who the guy is (who will drop out), but I will need to sit with the selectors once we get closer (to the game). So, it’s not for me to say yet. AB will bat near the top of the order at this particular event. We’ve got a wealth of experience now in the middle-order, where maybe in the past it wasn’t where it is now.”

Skipper Du Plessis said at Newlands on Thursday that De Villiers is likely to open the batting against England on Friday. “AB has been batting at the top for the last three series, so I don’t see that changing. He is an X-factor player, and it’s definitely something that we see as a wildcard at the World Cup,” the right-hander said.

“He is one of those players who can take a game away from the opposition. It’s something we are optimistic about at this World Cup, backing him in that role. If AB opens, I’ll be at three.”

Amla has a good strike-rate of 122.59 in his 30 T20 internationals, but could come under pressure to retain his place if De Kock is asked to open the batting with De Villiers, as the former Proteas Test captain is not regarded as a viable solution lower than number three in T20 cricket as he better known for his elegant stroke-play and piercing the gaps than hitting big sixes.

The other option is to let De Kock and Amla open, with Du Plessis at number three and De Villiers at four, which would leave Duminy, Behardien, Miller and Rossouw to fight it out for the remaining two spots.

Another solution would be to have either Duminy or Behardien - or both - fulfil the second all-rounder berth by batting at numbers six and seven and bowling a few overs together instead of Wiese or Morris.

New batting consultant Neil McKenzie, who joined the Proteas this week and will be with the team until the end of the ICC World T20, could also provide input into the matter.

“Neil has played a lot of Test and one-day cricket, and a lot of T20 cricket both locally and overseas. The main thing with Neil is the relationship he is able to develop with the players. At the end of the day, as a coach, that is one of the most important ingredients - being able to work with people and getting people to understand and listen to some ideas you might have on a particular skill,” Domingo said.

“Some guys might have all the knowledge, but often their way of getting it across might not be the best way, and that’s the most important thing. And I think he will be really good at that.”

Proteas T20 squad

Faf du Plessis (Titans, captain), Kyle Abbott (Dolphins), Hashim Amla (Cape Cobras), Farhaan Behardien (Titans), Quinton de Kock (Titans), AB de Villiers (Titans), JP Duminy (Cape Cobras), Imran Tahir (Dolphins), David Miller (Dolphins), Chris Morris (Titans), Aaron Phangiso (Highveld Lions), Kagiso Rabada (Highveld Lions), Rilee Rossouw (Knights), Dale Steyn (Cape Cobras), David Wiese (Titans).


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