Can AB quash wicketkeeper scepticism?

2012-12-09 10:00

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As good as De Villiers’ innings was in the third Test, the lingering suspicion of the gloves being too heavy for him refuses to go away, writes Khanyiso Tshwaku

That South Africa can field seven capable batsmen and still not have their balance affected is a luxury other Test teams dream of.

At times in Australia, they were caught a bowler short, but that ultimately did not come back to bite them.

The strength in their batting depth invariably came through at one stage or another.

AB de Villiers was one of those batsmen whose form deserted him before his epic 169 continued his love affair with the Western Australian Cricket Association ground in Perth last Sunday.

Former Proteas captain Kepler Wessels made an interesting observation about De Villiers’ lack of form, saying it was more of a technical flaw with his front-foot positioning rather than the added workload that comes from wicketkeeping.

It made sense, considering that a number of his dismissals – including being castled by Peter Siddle in the crucial fourth innings in Adelaide – were behind the wicket, indicating front-foot flaws.

It was the same for him during a 44-innings spell between 2005 and 2007, where his front-foot weaknesses were exposed.

Back then, he was phasing himself out of playing as an opener.

It is true South Africa has not had a wicketkeeper blessed with batting abilities since Denis Lindsay’s happy hooking of the 1960s – but why look for our own Adam Gilchrist?

De Villiers averaged a mighty 58 in 2012, but that is an indication of almost everything that came before Mark Boucher suffered his terrible injury at the start of the England tour and De Villiers had to assume the wicketkeeping duties.

If the Perth innings is not taken into account, there is not much to write home about, aside from a remarkably obstinate 36 off 246 balls in Adelaide to help save that Test.

Six Tests may not be an accurate reflection to gauge a star performer like De Villiers, but they were all away from home in difficult conditions when his primary talent – batting – needed to be used to the maximum.

Wessels’ statement about De Villiers being the number one glove man has cast serious doubt on Thami Tsolekile’s future in the Proteas.

Like Faf Du Plessis, who warranted his place with 599 Sunfoil Series runs last season at an average of 85, Tsolekile has averaged 44 in the past two seasons.

Former Proteas coach Ray Jennings has said the sport can be tough on honest performers like Tsolekile.

“His case is no different to any other player’s. Thami has done his rounds in the domestic circuit and he has

done enough in the past two seasons to warrant a call-up and everyone knows what he can do,” he said.

“Sport is tough in the sense that players do well and still do not get the recognition they deserve higher up. But when the opportunities come around, he will have to make the most of them.”

- City Press

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