The thought that the Proteas have the “luxury” of being able to leave out a player with 417 Test wickets seems ludicrous.
But Vernon Philander is pretty philosophical about Dale Steyn probably missing out on selection for the first Test against India at Newlands starting on Friday.
That’s just the reality of trying to fit five into four, especially when a potentially world-class spinner in Keshav Maharaj is in the mix.
“It comes down to conditions again. If there’s going to be grass on the wicket and the overhead conditions are favourable, then you’re obviously going to consider four seamers,” said Philander on Wednesday.
“However, our composition of three seamers and a frontline spinner has worked very well in the last 18 months. It’s a good dilemma to have.”
Proteas mentor Ottis Gibson earlier this week mentioned that he’s wary of Steyn, whose true match fitness is still very much unknown, breaking down again and leaving the side with only two main quicks.
Also, given the continued drought in the Cape, it seems unlikely that the Newlands pitch won’t become dry.
That brings Maharaj into play.
Yet Steyn’s absence means Philander will have to shoulder a heavier burden with the ball.
His fitness record is hardly spotless.
“If we’re going in with only three seamer, I know I’ve got my work cut out,” said the stocky 32-year-old.
“But it’s just really about realising the onus is on you to bowl the opposition out. It’s your responsibility to take those 20 wickets.”
The Proteas’ fast bowling riches might be in the spotlight but they also risk underestimating the ability of India’s group of seamers.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami are skillful operators while an “enforcer” like the aggressive Umesh Yadav should enjoy bouncier pitches.
“They’ve obviously played a lot at home, so they’ll need to adapt here,” said Philander.
“But we can’t control that. We respect the Indian attack and our batters are in good form.”