Proteas

Ottis Gibson's Proteas challenge for Chris Morris

Chris Morris (Getty)
Chris Morris (Getty)

Cape Town - As the Proteas continue their preparations for the 2019 Cricket World Cup, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the all-rounder positions. 

For a long time, and a long time ago, the Proteas lower order boasted the likes of Mark Boucher, Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock. That combination alone was often enough to get the national side over the line in some crunch situations. 

Klusener's heroics with the bat at the 1999 World Cup in England will never be forgotten, but 20 years later, in the same country, who will be South Africa's big-hitter down the order? 

It's a conundrum that the Proteas brains trust must figure out in the coming months, but it has been an issue for a number of years.

Albie Morkel, Justin Kemp, Johan van der Wath, Wayne Parnell, Ryan McLaren, David Wiese, Dwaine Pretorius ... all have been touted as genuine all-rounders capable of winning matches with the bat.

While there have been some isolated success stories, none of those players ever reached the consistently high standards set by Boucher, Klusener and Pollock. 

In the recent Sri Lanka series, the Proteas gave the bowling all-rounder slots to Andile Phehlukwayo and Wiaan Mulder - two youngsters with abundant potential but a long way to go. 

Phehlukwayo has serious muscle and can clear the ropes with ease, but he has not done it often enough with the bat at international level. 

Mulder, meanwhile, looks a technically sound player, but he isn’t the guy you want coming in when needing 10 an over for victory. 

So, who do the Proteas have at their disposal that can play a Klusener-like role at next year's World Cup? 

The name of Chris Morris immediately comes to mind. 

Morris is another who has not come close to filling his potential at international level - he averages 19 with the bat and 40 with the ball in 34 ODIs - but he has shown in the IPL and in domestic cricket that he can be as destructive as anybody. 

Morris is quick when he bowls and powerful when he bats. He is a player that can get his side back into a contest in a matter of minutes if he gets going. 

The problem for the 31-year-old is that he has struggled to stay fit for long periods, and that is exactly national coach Ottis Gibson's concerns.

Morris has only just recovered from a back injury that he picked up in this year's IPL, and he is currently playing in the four-day clash between the Titans and the Dolphins at Centurion.

"The biggest problem for Morris is his fitness," Gibson said at a press conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

"Not in terms of general fitness, but in terms of staying on the park. In the last three years he has had a lot of injury issues, more so than cricketing issues.

"I think once he's fit and strong his real talent will come to the fore and that's the message that I've given him already.

"We know what Morris can do and we want him to be as fit as possible so that he can allow himself to do what we know he is capable of doing.

"If he can play the next month or two for the Titans and get really hard into cricket, then that's obviously good for us."

The Proteas will play the first of three ODIs against Zimbabwe in Kimberley on Sunday, starting at 10:00.

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