New role for Prince

2015-04-24 00:00

CAPE TOWN — His likely swansong season with Lancashire presents minor complications … but probably not enough to stand in the way of ­experienced Proteas scrapper Ashwell Prince joining Cricket South Africa’s national selection panel.

Sport24 understands that moves are certainly afoot, as first rumoured recently, to coax the left-handed batsman into a new role back home.

That quest will only pick up steam with confirmation yesterday that Andrew Hudson, 35-Test opening batsman for SA in the early post-isolation period, will step down from the panel in June after serving as convenor since 2010.

Remaining panel members Shafiek Abrahams, Linda Zondi and Hussein Manack may well be reappointed, but that would still leave a significant void, not only given Hudson’s leadership of the quartet but his near-standalone personal experience of international cricket as a player. Abrahams played a single one-day international for the Proteas against New Zealand at Newlands, though Zondi and Manack never donned national colours themselves.

There will undoubtedly be some public speculation that Hudson has been cajoled into resignation at least in part by CSA’s broad recommitment of late to transformation goals.

But if Prince comes into the picture — assuming he agrees to nomination, a process that closes on April 30 — the transformation box he ticks would be overwhelmingly incidental.

That is because his own Proteas pedigree in the field of combat is quite beyond dispute: he represented the country in 66 Tests, making 11 centuries and averaging almost 42, and 52 ODIs over a period between 2002 and 2011.

He is a feisty and single-minded character, qualities that often came to the fore in his resilient approach at the crease, and certainly an unlikely yes man if cynics assume he will merely be part of a process that rubber-stamps any convenient CSA “political” agenda, if you like.

Prince is still a combative batsman at the age of almost 38 — it is surely only useful for selection purposes that he is an up-to-the-minute first-class cricketer? — and in that very fact lies an obvious logistical snag.

For the Port Elizabeth-born campaigner reversed late last year his intention to retire from all cricket, committing to a further English county campaign this summer with Lancashire, and he is already among the championship runs after scoring 97 — a typical Prince innings after taking guard in the second innings at 21/3 — in the victory over Derbyshire this week.

But the current panel will still pick the SA squads for the three-format Proteas tour of Bangladesh during the middle of the local winter, and it is this writer’s understanding that Prince would potentially only miss involvement in picking for one series thereafter — the home ODI and T20 roster in August (played on the Highveld or in Durban only for early-spring weather reasons) against New Zealand, SA’s conquerors in the World Cup semi-final recently.

He is highly likely to finally step down from a playing role when the county season finishes in mid-September — well ahead of the local 2015/16 season-proper where England are the headline, major-series visitors.

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