Cape Town - The presence of Lions left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso, to the detriment of more versatile cricketing package Robin Peterson, is probably the most questionable feature of the South African squad named on Monday for the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh next month.
There was little to choose between them in the recent domestic RAM SLAM T20 Challenge, where both got 11 wickets for the Lions and Cape Cobras respectively although Phangiso, in fairness, did sport the slightly better economy rate – a particularly important consideration in this environment – of 6.91 to 7.57.
But in bigger picture terms, Peterson seemed to hold the aces for a call-up and his omission is especially perplexing because he did so well at the last 50-overs World Cup (2011) for the Proteas in Subcontinent conditions that occasionally included Bangladeshi venues.
Peterson bagged 15 wickets at that tournament, putting him joint-third for most scalps alongside Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan and crowd-pleasing Indian all-rounder Yuvraj Singh.
Included in that harvest by the 34-year-old was a career-best analysis of four for 12 against the very Bangladesh in Dhaka.
The other advantage Peterson has over Phangiso is that he offers infinitely stronger batting credentials – he has become more and more enterprising and innovative in his stroke-play as the years go by, whereas the latter is a more bog-standard tail-ender in international terms.
Peterson’s way superior experience, often a key attribute for global get-togethers, has also been overlooked: he sports 97 appearances for South Africa across the two limited-overs codes, whereas Phangiso has just eight caps, including three in T20s.
Figures of four for 100 in 11 overs (economy rate 9.09) in the T20 arena for the Proteas across that trio of games do not inspire special confidence, and in his last outing he registered an expensive 3-0-33-1 against Pakistan at Newlands in November.
So he has a fair bit to prove, although it is quite possible that South Africa will prioritise leg-spinner Imran Tahir (who tends to do much better in Asia than elsewhere) and JP Duminy’s off-spin for up to eight of the required 20 bowling overs at the world event and then put plenty of faith in an impressive seam arsenal to make up the rest.
As selection chief Andrew Hudson hinted to Sport24 a few days ago, the nucleus of the remainder of the 15-strong squad picked comes from existing staffers, particularly given signs that South Africa are just starting to come right again in the limited-overs landscape.
The recall of veteran, hard-hitting all-rounder Albie Morkel was deserved, even if his bowling remains a tad vulnerable, and it just takes a bit of the pressure off David Miller to be the designated finisher every time (not that there is any guarantee they will actually feature in the same XI at the tournament).
An intriguing feature is the presence of as many as three left-arm speedsters in the Proteas’ mix, with exciting novice Beuran Hendricks joining more established customers Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell.
Hendricks’ irresistible form in the domestic T20 event (his 28 wickets amounted to 12 more than his nearest challenger) made him a virtual certainty, and the fact that he is always prepared to try a variety of different deliveries could mean he announces himself to a bigger audience in a meaningful way if game-time is offered to him.
South Africa look strong on batting quality and nous, in the shape of captain Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Duminy, Miller and company.
At this stage the Titans’ 30-year-old Farhaan Behardien, who is also yet to really convince at international level after 10 T20 caps and a top score of 31 not out, seems likeliest candidate for “spare” batsman.
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