In & Out: Survival of the fittest beardsy

2015-02-01 15:00

In On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin notes: “Natural selection almost inevitably causes much extinction of the less improved forms of life and induces?…?‘divergence of character’.”

When it comes to selection – natural or otherwise – in South African cricket, this quote makes me wonder about what goes through the coach’s mind on match days.

Russell Domingo must be quite keenly attuned to “divergences of character”, given the sheer volume of characters he will be faced with on his upcoming trip to the antipodes for the World Cup. Take, for example, the tough choice he might face on the morning of February 14 – a day that holds much significance for different people in different ways, with or without legs – when his team is set to take on Zimbabwe in their first match of the tournament.

“Do I go for the beard avec highlights in Imran, or the beard avec ‘parnytail’ in Wayne, or neither?” He must surely be thinking along these lines.

If you’re looking for more concrete examples, you might say Quinton de Kock rolling over on his ankle in the test series against the West Indies provided a gap, however indirectly, for such a divergence of character. When news spread quickly that the prodigal son was ruled out for the rest of the tour, South African cricket fans rued their luck.

But what they didn’t expect was the bubbling from beneath the surface of Rilee Rossouw, whose 128 at the Wanderers two weeks ago and 132 at SuperSport Park on Wednesday, would, under normal circumstances, have guaranteed him a place in the starting 11.

But De Kock is fit again, and although his meagre seven runs on Wednesday might belie his clean bill of health, he’s the Proteas’ first-choice keeper. De Kock’s innate ability can’t be denied, but is he in World Cup-winning form? Rossouw seems to be.

So should Quinny’s inclusion be assured? Is he really the great doe-eyed hope?

If so, who does Rossouw replace? King beard Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis’ places aren’t in question. Besides, AB’s a legend and would have no problem taking back the gloves.

Could David Miller make way? His heavy bat and 130* in Port Elizabeth last weekend suggest otherwise. How about Farhaan “Fudgie” Behardien? He’s a handy all-rounder, but hasn’t been in the best nick – and right-arm medium-slow doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposition batsmen.

At the bowling end of the selector’s quandary, we have the three no-brainers in seamers Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, all of whom have vast experience on Aussie turf to draw from. But things get murky from there.

Does Domingo buff up the seam attack, given its necessity down under, with Kyle Abbott or Wayne Parnell? And what about the spin/slow conundrum? Does he go with one full-time spinner in Imran Tahir and one part-timer in either JP Duminy or Fudgie, or does he go for two full-timers in Tahir and Aaron Phangiso, and have one part-timer in Duminy by default?

Whatever Domingo decides, his selection in the coming weeks is bound to shape the evolution of South African cricket. Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to a mass extinction.

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