Proteas

CWC: Morris or Philander MUST be next in line for Proteas

Chris Morris (Gallo)
Chris Morris (Gallo)

Cape Town - The Proteas' 2019 World Cup preparations have been a little more complicated than skipper Faf du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson would have liked.

The form and mental state of Hashim Amla is one obvious concern, but more worrying is the news that Dale Steyn's participation at the tournament hangs in the balance. 

Steyn lasted just two games and eight overs at the IPL before he flew back to South Africa with an all too familiar shoulder injury, and now he is in a race against time to prove his fitness for the trip to England.

The Proteas meet for a camp on May 12, and that is where a final decision will be taken on the man many consider to be the greatest fast bowler South Africa has ever produced. 

Whichever way you look at it, Steyn withdrawing would be a major loss for the Proteas.

With 125 ODIs and two previous World Cups to his name, the 35-year-old is easily the most experienced member of the Proteas bowling attack. 

Form aside, that is as important as anything. 

South Africa are placing a lot of emphasis on their bowling attack at this tournament. Where other sides will be backing themselves to chase and post scores of 350 and more, the Proteas are backing themselves to bowl out their opposition. 

Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi are expected to form a pace trio that will be complemented by evergreen leg-spinner Imran Tahir, and that is the foursome tasked with taking the wickets. 

If Steyn does fall out, then Anrich Nortje is the backup fast bowler in the 15-man squad. 

Nortje, highly rated and with the element of the unknown on his side, is as quick as anyone and that is why Gibson wanted him.

He has, however, played just ODIs.

Without Steyn, the Proteas bowling attack all-of-a-sudden has a largely inexperienced feel to it. 

That is not necessarily the worst thing in the world - Proteas management sees value in backing youngsters who have not yet been tainted by the 'chokers' tag - but inexperience rears its head once more when looking at potential replacements for Steyn should it come to that. 

A list of standby players has existed ever since the 15-man squad was announced two weeks ago. If Steyn is replaced, then his replacement will come off that list.

We do not know who those standby players are, but we can safely assume that Beuran Hendricks is one of them. 

Hendricks is left-handed, has pace and possesses an availability to move the ball and all of that combines to make him an attractive option. There were many pundits who would have picked him in their original squad. 

The problem? Hendricks has played just 2 ODIs. 

Junior Dala, the leading wicket-taker in this year's One Day Cup, is another name that springs to mind. He also has 2 caps. 

The logic in thinking that one of those two players will be picked if Steyn is ruled out comes from the fact that they were both involved, even if only in a limited capacity, in South Africa's World Cup build-up where players were being given opportunities. 

Vernon Philander and Chris Morris, for example, were not in those plans. 

Philander has not played an ODI since August 2015, so there is that issue. He has, however, played a lot of white ball cricket domestically this season. 

The idea that Philander would be a handful in English conditions may be a little overhyped given that the wickets are expected to be flat and dry, but there is no doubt that he could use the overcast conditions to his benefit

Philander is also more than capable with the bat, and that is crucial given that South Africa's tail is already longer than most. 

Morris, meanwhile, has fallen well out of favour. Injuries haven't helped, but he has not played an ODI in over a year. 

Overlooked for the allrounder slots with Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius cracking the nod, Morris has accepted the fact that his World Cup dream is over. 

Given that Gibson is prioritising pace at this World Cup, however, Morris should be given another look-in. 

He continues to clock speeds well over 140 kph in the IPL and he is taking wickets regularly, while the x-factor he provides with the bat is another major drawcard. 

More significant than any of that, though, is the fact that in both Morris and Philander the Proteas have two players who, like Steyn, have seen it all. 

Morris may not have a World Cup under his belt, but his exploits in the IPL have seen him exposed to numerous high-pressure situations on the biggest stages. 

The same cannot be said for the likes of Hendricks and Dala. 

First-prize is that it doesn't get to this and that Steyn is 100% fit by the time the plane leaves, but if Morris has not received a phone call yet, then it needs to happen as a matter of urgency.

He has probably already planned his post-IPL holiday. 

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ... 

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