Proteas balance Test priorities with T20 World Cup plans as new faces get picked
The aftermath of the World Cup exit has been more measured than in 2015 and 2019, allowing for mature decision-making, which is reflected in the Proteas squads named on Monday for the three series against India.
Whereas there was trauma and controversy after the semifinal In Auckland, and then a complete blowing-up of the coaching structure four years ago, this year, after the Proteas' World Cup exit, both limited-overs coach Rob Walter and his Test counterpart Shukri Conrad have been able to provide clear assessments over their choices.
Test cricket is the priority for the summer, with a much-anticipated two-match series against India coming fully into focus.
Eighty percent of the side picks itself, but there is definitely space for other guys to get into the conversationRob Walter
Still, the annual ICC moneymaker event, which in 2024 will be a T20 World Cup, means a balance had to be struck between assessing players and planning for how SA would attack that tournament.
How much of a role Temba Bavuma has to play in the T20 format will be determined by his performances in the SA20, but for now, it was more important for SA’s ODI and Test captain to get mentally fresh ahead of Boxing Day.
He was not included in the ODI squad, which will be led by Aiden Markram. Instead Bavuma is given the priority of the Tests, and will play in the December 14 round of domestic four-day fixtures.
“He has been phenomenal throughout the year,” Walter said. “But there is a toll; the pressure of a World Cup and the scrutiny of a skipper through all of that.”
He and Conrad, in conjunction with Bavuma, mapped out the best means of preparing for the Tests. “It wasn’t a long conversation, it was the right thing to do for the player and his cricket too,” Walter added.
🟢 SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT 🟡— Proteas Men (@ProteasMenCSA) December 4, 2023
CSA has today named the Proteas squads for the all-format inbound tour against India from 10 Dec – 7 Jan 🇿🇦🇮🇳
Captain Temba Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada are amongst a group of players that have been omitted for the white-ball leg of the tour in order to… pic.twitter.com/myFE24QZaz
Kagiso Rabada also won’t play in either of the white-ball series, while Gerald Coetzee, Marco Jansen and Lungi Ngidi will miss the final T20 and the ODIs so they can play in the same round of four-day games to aid with their preparations for the Tests.
It allows for Nandre Burger, the bruising left-arm quick from Western Province, and the more surgical seamer Ottniel Baartman to stake a claim in the limited-overs matches.
Burger, 28, has long been on the Proteas radar, but an international breakthrough has been absent because of a series of injuries. He possesses exciting pace, though his control is lacking.
Baartman has also been knocking on the Proteas door for a few years, and his “death” bowling ability is certainly an element that is deserving of observation at the highest level.
Mihlali Mpongwana is the latest candidate to be given an examination in the all-rounder category.
The 23-year-old joins Andile Phehlukwayo and Sisanda Magala — who is still struggling with knee and ankle ailments — in what Walter hopes can be developed into a wider pool of seam-bowling all-rounders.
“His selection is a reward for performance, but for us to also target all-rounders, get a new person into our system, and get them to see how we want to play the game.”
The composition of the T20 batting unit is complicated by the possibility of World Cup call-ups for Faf du Plessis, Rilee Rossouw and Quinton de Kock. The latter, Walter explained, was talked back from retiring from international cricket entirely earlier this year, with part of that process allowing him to sign a contract in the Big Bash tournament in Australia, which means he misses the T20s against the Indians.
Du Plessis and Rossouw are the most prominent names related to the “hybrid contracting” policy being discussed by Cricket SA and the South African Cricketers’ Association. Du Plessis wouldn’t have been ready for this series anyway because he is still in rehab after elbow surgery, but that Walter mentioned them both means they are in the picture for the World Cup.
Besides this series and one against the West Indies shortly before that tournament, SA aren’t scheduled to play any other T20 Internationals in the next eight months.
“Eighty percent of the side picks itself, but there is definitely space for other guys to get into the conversation. The SA20 will be really important as far as the World Cup goes. There is plenty of T20 cricket between now and the T20 World Cup,” Walter said.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.