Klaasen’s absence from Test side an indication of Proteas’ need for flexibility
Heinrich Klaasen’s omission from the Proteas Test squad for the Indian series illustrates how, in cricket’s new world, players will need to accept that changes may be more radical than even a decade ago.
Though Klaasen’s absence from the Test team wasn’t a shock, given the options available, it did indicate a willingness on the part of Shukri Conrad to adopt a “horse for courses” policy even with squad selection.
The Proteas Test coach acknowledged Klaasen, one of the country’s best batters against spin, would “definitely be back” in the side for Test tours to Bangladesh and the West Indies, with the squad named on Monday specifically aimed at blunting and counterattacking India’s potent seam bowling line-up.
“The character and calibre of player we are selecting will speak to the type of cricket we will be playing,” Conrad said.
“When I look at how we can potentially beat India in the conditions we are likely to encounter at SuperSport Park [in the first Test] — these are the players I believe can perform in those conditions against that Indian attack and give us the best chance of winning.”
“The selection of [Tristan] Stubbs, [Kyle] Verreynne and [David] Bedingham speaks directly to how we would like to play our Test cricket. It’s not the end of the road for ‘Klaasy’.”
South Africa’s Test schedule in the 12 months after the India series includes trips to New Zealand, West Indies and Bangladesh, featuring six matches. New Zealand, of course, has a unique set of circumstances created by Cricket SA and the scheduling of the SA20 tournament, which has forced Conrad to dig deeper into South Africa’s playing reserves.
However, the tours to the West Indies at the end of July and Bangladesh in October should see most of the household names available, though Conrad maintains he will box clever with playing resources.
“We know what we can expect in Bangladesh and even conditions in the West Indies will be similar. We will see the return of guys who, in those conditions, will be able to deliver performances that will help us win those series.”
Conrad described it as a “hybrid combination”, stressing the importance of adaptability. In that regard it’s a case of selectors needing to learn from players, who for years have been hopping between three different formats.
From a selection perspective it’s about carefully weighing up conditions along with player availability owing to the jam-packed schedule. Next year the ICC has the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and US as its global event, while South Africa also have a trip to Ireland sandwiched between that and the Tests in the West Indies.
“It’s a hybrid combination — it is where the global game is going,” Conrad said of his planning for the year ahead. “You have to be quite flexible in your selection, and ensure guys are fresh for when they do get called upon.”
India’s extensive tour party is an example thereof. They will bring 44 players in December playing in the T20 and One-Day Internationals, Tests and in an India A side that will face South Africa A ahead of the first Test.
Of those 27 will be playing in at least two of the series and only Shreyas Iyer is involved in all three squads. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah are only playing the Tests.
South Africa is looking to deepen its playing pool, with the SA A side gaining more prominence. With the international schedule becoming even busier and T20 leagues springing up all the time — along with the likely expansion of the Indian Premier League — international coaches have to become as adaptable as players already have been.
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