Cricket

Long wait for Proteas' World Cup squad announcement is almost over

14 April 2019 - 00:00 By TELFORD VICE


Four more sleeps. Thursday can't come quickly enough for Linda Zondi, but not because he has booked a trip far away from what has lived with him from dawn to dusk and beyond for almost four years.
"What holiday?" Zondi said. "Thursday is phase one. Once that is done, then it's down to business."
Zondi has been a senior national selector since 2013 and became SA's selection convenor in June 2015 with the embers of that year's Cricket World Cup still burning holes into the consciousness of his cricket-minded compatriots.
Now it's his turn to preside over the first act of the drama that will become the 2019 tournament, the announcement of SA's squad. That's Thursday's gig.
But Zondi has already moved past the raising of the curtain: "I can't wait for Friday morning - everyone has been sending me their squads and I want to see what they say. Khaya Zondo has a whole fan club telling me why he should be picked."
ALMOST HAPPY
If that sounds as if Zondi's panel have already signed off on the 15 players who will be in England next month, it shouldn't.
"I'm almost happy," Zondi said. "The final calls still need to be made. Our plan was to watch these last few T20s before making up our minds."
He spoke on Friday in the hours before three franchise games in the format were to be played. Three more are set to follow on Sunday and another two on Tuesday.
Best, for the selectors' sake, no one who coulda, woulda, shoulda cracked the nod but doesn't goes and shoots the lights out at the Wanderers on Thursday, where the first ball of the Lions' match against the Titans is due to be bowled at 6pm - five hours after the squad is revealed live on television.
The invitation to this fandango, erroneously billed as "the World Cup team reveal", tried to tell people how to dress: "Come as you are (Proudly South African)."
At least Fikile Mbalula won't be there this time, screeching his nonsense from on high. But will Rassie van der Dussen be there? Or Chris Morris? Any takers for Sinethemba Qeshile?
Van der Dussen's selection seems more possible than probable and Morris's the other way round. Qeshile would be a bolter, but who doesn't like bolters?
It isn't difficult to imagine any or all of those players doing a job at the Cricket World Cup. But could they do it consistently and under the highest pressure?
Welcome to the world of Zondi and his committee, who have had to hang on through a ride that has veered onto the wild side a little too often for their liking.
"You've got senior players putting up their hands and also young players coming through, guys like Van der Dussen and Steyn, Pretorius and Morris. We've had 'Hash' and his family situation, AB retiring, Lungi and JP getting injured, Olivier going Kolpak. It's been a roller coaster."
Anyone who needs those names completed hasn't been on the same roller coaster and so couldn't care less, and whatever else you might want to say about how the selectors have done their job you can't say they haven't done so with utmost care.
"It's been a whole mix of strategy and options," Zondi said.
"We've done everything and exposed a lot of guys."Since the 2015 World Cup, 20 players have made their debut for SA in one-day internationals and 19 in T20s.And Zondi has liked what he has seen: "Post-Cricket World Cup, if some of the senior players do what they have said they will do and retire, we have the players to go forward as a team."After the World Cup? That's a lot of sleeps from Thursday for us, but not for Zondi.KIERON POLLARD HOPING FOR WINDIES RECALLWest Indies outcast Kieron Pollard said he was targeting a return to the national team for the World Cup after smashing a whirlwind 83 in the Indian Premier League.Pollard, whose knock off 31 balls helped Mumbai Indians beat Kings XI Punjab on the last ball this week, said he hoped his problems with the West Indies board were in the past.The 31-year-old, who last played an ODI in 2016, said he was "blacklisted" under the previous regime, but was hopeful of a recall after last month's ousting of controversial board president Dave Cameron

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