Proteas risk World Cup déjà vu

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The Proteas are taking a huge risk by picking players who are not fit, and it could come back to haunt them – as it did in the 50-over World Cup where there were question marks over Vernon Philander’s hamstring ahead of the dramatic semi-final defeat to New Zealand.

Philander was far from his best in that match, and the same applied to Steyn, who received treatment to a hamstring during the game as well. And we all know how that movie ended…

His selection for the ICC World T20 in India next month is unfair on Steyn. He is a world-beater, and should not be put in a situation where he has to perform when not 100 percent fit.

The 32-year-old is set to be back on the field for the three-match T20 series against Australia in early March in South Africa, where he is expected to prove his fitness.

Cricket South Africa said in a statement on Wednesday that Steyn’s inclusion in the World T20 squad was “subject to his being passed fit”.

But are three internationals against Australia enough? Steyn hasn’t bowled in a match since limping off in the second innings of the first Test against England during the Boxing Day match in Durban with a shoulder strain, which has kept him out since.

That was around six weeks ago, and before that, he missed most of the Indian Test series as well with a groin injury picked up in the first match – where he bowled 11 overs – which ruled him out of the last three.

Now Steyn is being expected to lead the Proteas attack in the T20 arena, when he has hardly played since November 2015. Having been the champion bowler for his country for the best part of a decade, Steyn deserves better treatment than that.

The omission of Morné Morkel is not unexpected, but the Proteas may have overlooked the value that he could’ve brought to the team in sub-continental conditions.

Morkel had a very good Indian tour and excelled in the ODIs and Test matches, where he showcased great variety in his repertoire, moving away from his usual short-of-a-length game plan and mixing things up with cutters and yorkers.

The Proteas opted for two specialist spinners in Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso, who deserves his spot after ending third on the leading wicket-takers’ list in the RamSlam T20 Challenge this season.

One player who was somewhat unlucky to miss out is Cape Cobras all-rounder Wayne Parnell, who has been in top form with the bat and ball in T20 and 50-over cricket in recent months.

However, Chris Morris and David Wiese were first and joint-fourth respectively in the RamSlam wicket-takers’ chart, which probably won them the nod, while a seventh specialist batsman in Rilee Rossouw further affected Parnell’s chances.

South Africa, who were semi-finalists in the last World T20 in Bangladesh, are in Group 1 with England, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Qualifier B, and open their campaign against England on March 18 at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

“We take some confidence from our T20 series wins against Bangladesh and India and kept relatively the same players who have had success on the sub-continent,” coach Russell Domingo said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We have been playing good T20 cricket of late and this is our opportunity to showcase our skills at a world event.

“The upcoming T20 series’ against England and Australia will be the ideal platform for us to fine-tune some combinations and to hopefully gain some winning confidence ahead of the tournament next month.

“We are in a tough group in the tournament with England, West Indies, Sri Lanka and a qualifier. All of the top six teams on the world rankings have the skill and ability to lift the trophy, so it’s a completely open competition with high stakes.”

Proteas World T20 Squad

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

Proteas Group 1 Fixtures

March 18: England (Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai)

March 20: Qualifier B (Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai)

March 25: West Indies (Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur)

March 28: Sri Lanka (Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, Delhi)

ashfak.mohamed@inl.co.za

@IndyCapeSport

The Proteas are taking a huge risk by picking players who are not fit, and it could come back to haunt them, writes Ashfak Mohamed

Original source: Proteas risk World Cup déjà vu

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