Cape Town – Bombshell picks seem virtually out of the question when South Africa name their squad for the 2015 World Cup at an upmarket Waterfront hotel here on Wednesday.
The selection policy for the Proteas’ 50-overs team has had a marked emphasis on consistency in recent months – and even before that – so a violent shaking of the bag seems unlikely and illogical so close to the major event, beginning in mid-February.
Andrew Hudson and his co-panel, not to mention some sections of the public and critics, will have raised a worried eyebrow or two after the 4-1 reverse a few weeks back to the major hosts of the tournament, Australia, in their own backyard which looks like a bad omen on paper.
But while the outcome did little to especially enhance any South African prospects of a merciful end to their CWC title-winning duck, not even the ODI No 1-ranked Aussies will be suckered into any foolish belief that it makes the Proteas, currently third in the pecking order, a potentially lame presence at the World Cup.
The bilateral series in November was rather more touch-and-go than the eventual width of the outcome suggests, and bear in mind also that not too long before that many of the incumbent SA personnel savoured tournament victory in a Zimbabwean triangular (admittedly in vastly different conditions) also featuring Australia.
Just from a psychological point of view, and particularly for younger elements of the Proteas brew, that achievement should be empowering going into the much more keynote event soon.
South Africa do look like attractive potential semi-finalists, at least, for the World Cup and it is perhaps for that very reason that continuity in selection will be a feature once more at Wednesday’s announcement of the 15-strong party.
As former national captain and SuperSport pundit Kepler Wessels has already stated, the intended starting XI for the Proteas under fairly orthodox limited-overs conditions is relatively easy to predict, leaving only four further squad spots up for grabs anyway.
Assuming that middle-order batsman and useful part-time medium-pacer Farhaan Behardien is given a swift opportunity at the World Cup to build on his sizzling knock in his last ODI, against the Aussies in Sydney when he scored 63 at a strike rate of 153, this should be that “first team” in possible batting order: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (early tournament fitness not yet guaranteed, of course), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, David Miller, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.
Taking into account the safe assumption that the squad will require at least one extra specialist batsman and fast bowler, Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott should be in the plane as well.
The left-handed, still relatively inexperienced Rossouw has blown rather hot and cold in limited-overs games for his country thus far ... but when he has been on song, boy, has he looked a commanding factor.
Abbott, meanwhile, shows a welcome relish to operate in the important death phase of opponents’ innings, with the skill to match that willingness.
More debatable, maybe, for Australasian conditions is whether it is really necessary to take a third spinner, if you can already add the off-spin of Duminy to Imran Tahir’s leggies.
But Tahir is a fickle sort of bowler, who may get a flurry of wickets in one match and take some severe tap the next, and there is also an irksome cloud hanging over him on domestic disciplinary grounds.
So an extra slow bowler may be a comfort to have lurking – it may well be the disciplined if not exactly mystery Aaron Phangiso, although Robin Peterson would be a great, seasoned man to also have a phone-call away back in South Africa should any emergency need arise.
That leaves just one more hole to fill for a list of 15: although he has not yet lived up to his potential by any means, my hunch is that lower-order all-rounder Wayne Parnell will sneak in, just ahead of similar cricketer Ryan McLaren whose once impressive ODI form has rather deserted him at a bad time.
Parnell at least gives some variety on the seam front as he bowls left-arm, and he does have a wicket-taking knack at times, even off his less illustrious deliveries.
Marchant de Lange, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Morne van Wyk – the latter perhaps making the cut if the De Kock race against time warrants an additional wicketkeeper/batsman – are probably the likeliest trio of dark horses for a CWC ticket.
I will be surprised if the SA squad, assuming all candidates carrying injury or disciplinary clouds are deemed available for inclusion from the outset, differs much, if at all, from this: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, David Miller, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Rilee Rossouw, Kyle Abbott, Aaron Phangiso, Wayne Parnell.
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