Peter Robinson

Boucher has plenty to offer SA

2005-01-11 10:03

By accident rather than design, possibly, or perhaps by stealth, South Africa go into the fourth Test match against England starting at the Wanderers on Thursday with the makings of their strongest XI of the summer.

Quite what it was that caused Mark Boucher to fall out of favour has never been clearly explained. Neither, for that, does the official reasoning for his recall ring true.

It is claimed that Boucher's experience will be a valuable asset as South Africa enter the final straight of the series against England. If so, you wonder why it took the selectors three Tests to recognise this.

More worrying for South African cricket generally is the suggestion is that legal minds have taken a closer look at the reasons for the axing of Boucher and that the whiff of a racial discrimination suit has persuaded the United Cricket Board to reconsider its treatment of Boucher.

Whatever the case, there is no question that the South African squad looks stronger for the presence of Boucher and that if he is once again redeployed as wicketkeeper, South Africa's batting would gain from his pugnacity.

This is not to disparage the parts played by AB de Villiers, with bat and gloves, this summer. In his brief Test career, De Villiers has already opened the batting, kept wicket and fought a rearguard action.

A new role, similar to that played by Jonty Rhodes, could secure De Villiers' future, at least in the short term, in the side.

Since the retirement of Rhodes, South Africa have never adequately filled the hole left at number six. Eric Simons spoke often of the search for a busy number six, able to lift the mood and the tempo of the innings and De Villiers looks ideally suited to the position.

Resist moving Gibbs down

His natural game is to attack and he has both the technique and the temperament to come in after Jacques Kallis and Boeta Dippenaar who are both happiest when building Test innings.

There has been talk of moving Herschelle Gibbs down to five or six. This should be resisted. Gibbs and Graeme Smith have formed one of the most prolific opening pairs to have played for South Africa and Smith, certainly, feels more comfortable with Gibbs at the other end.

Gibbs may be out of form, but this is the result of not having played a great deal this season. Dropping down the order is not necessarily the solution for a player who, you always feel, is just a stroke or two away from recapturing both his touch and his confidence.

There may be political difficulties in leaving out Hashim Amla, but the truth is that so far he has looked out of his depth at Test level. Australia loom at the end of this year and, to be frank, on the evidence presented so far Amla has not yet acquired the tools to cope with the best side in the world.

The best side South Africa could put into the field at the moment would entail giving the gloves to Boucher, moving De Villiers from seven to six and leaving out Amla. Whether the selectors have the courage and the will to field this side, though, remains to be seen.

Send Peter your thoughts on this column.

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