Proteas: Pretorius thrown a lifeline

Dwaine Pretorius (Getty)
Dwaine Pretorius (Getty)

Cape Town – The polite expression might be that Dwaine Pretorius is a “becalmed” cricketer at present.

Be that as it may, some wind has suddenly been put into his sails – or at least that will be the intention – with his unexpected recall on Wednesday to the Proteas squad for the three-match ODI series (and one Twenty20 international) in Australia next month.

On the basis of statistics over the past year or so, there’s cause for arguing that Pretorius is a slightly fortunate customer … or even not so slightly.

He has receded into disappointingly ineffectual ways, as far as weight of personal performance is concerned, in the period mentioned -- and that at a time when you would really have hoped for a marked upward trajectory from the 29-year-old all-rounder instead.

Still, selectors and coaches are not subject to any hard and fast rules precluding them from picking seemingly out-of-nick players; there is still acceptable room for instinct playing a role.

That phenomenon must have been prevalent to a healthy degree when Linda Zondi and company opted to bring the Lions player in from the cold, although he has clearly also benefited from the unavailable status through injury of younger franchise colleague and similar package in many senses Wiaan Mulder.

One thing we already know is that Pretorius can play international cricket: he has 12 ODI caps, although the last came almost exactly a year ago, against Bangladesh at Paarl.

Certainly the world seemed his oyster a bit before that -- at the tail-end of the previous season – when he briefly but definitively illuminated the bilateral series in New Zealand.

First Pretorius, confirming his more deep-rooted competence with the willow, bludgeoned a crisp and confident 50 off 27 balls against the host nation at Christchurch, and then in the follow-up encounter three days later his sometimes brisk away-swing bowling came to the fore in greasy conditions as he grabbed a quickfire three for five in five eventful overs.

Such conditions, let’s not forget, could be experienced again when the Proteas get into action at next year’s World Cup, held reasonably early in the English summer.

Subsequently, though, the Randfontein-born customer has battled, for whatever the reasons, to be impactful either for country or domestic cause.

He finished last season in the Sunfoil Series for the Lions with 203 runs from eight innings at a modest 29.00, and claimed nine wickets at a rather bloated 52.44 (though his batting in the Momentum One-Day Cup was perkier: 254 runs at 36.28 and a strike rate of around 90).

His activity during our latest winter – In India with the SA ‘A’ side – again brought modest returns, and it is not as though he has begun 2018/19 in rip-roaring fashion either.

Pretorius, in fact, registered the dreaded pair at the crease in the Lions’ innings defeat at the Wanderers by the Cape Cobras in the now unsponsored four-day competition, as well as largely unflattering, one-innings-only bowling figures of 1/70 in 20 overs.

Just before that, he was wicketless in Port Elizabeth against the Warriors (0/45 and 0/39), although he did contribute a knock of 30 not out.

There is a bit of a pattern of under-delivery, really.

But the Proteas brains trust clearly had their “New Zealand memories” still fairly vivid in their motivations for his inclusion in the latest Proteas party.

That’s not a crime against humanity: Pretorius almost undoubtedly has something about him, including a good body language, when the planets are suitably aligned to his favour -- especially given his potential for easing the trend of South Africa having a few too many bunnies (or at least near-rabbits) in their lower order.

Now he simply has to repay the staunch faith shown in him, if the opportunity comes along Down Under …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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