Given that eight players in the Proteas squad announced on Thursday have never been to a Cricket World Cup, selection convenor Linda Zondi and his panel probably considered it a crime to waste the considerable experience and pedigree available to them in the form of Hashim Amla.
The 36-year-old batsman, one of the most prolific run-scorers ODI cricket has ever seen, has not had the best of summers with a finger injury and then his father falling seriously ill interrupting his time out in the middle and playing a major role in Amla not scoring the huge amounts of runs he and the South African public have become accustomed to enjoying.
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But Zondi said on Thursday at the announcement of the 15-man World Cup squad that picking Amla had not been difficult, especially with two other rookie batsmen in the squad in the form of Rassie van der Dussen and Aiden Markram.
“With the type of game-plan that Ottis Gibson wants to implement, playing very confident cricket and allowing the batsmen room and licence to express themselves, we felt we have to have experience because you don’t want to be 70 for five. We need someone who can consolidate and Hashim has done that for us for years. He hasn’t suddenly become a bad player just because he’s going through a bad patch at the moment.
“Hashim’s current average for ODIs this year is 53 with a strike-rate of 87, while Reeza Hendricks is averaging 26 at a strike-rate of 75 and Aiden Markram only played twice against Sri Lanka, but averaged 96 at a strike-rate of 90. So we looked at the stats and the overall career and for someone to replace Hashim they have to do better than him. So it was a no-brainer to choose young and expansive batsmen but also Hashim to do what he has done for us for so many years,” Zondi said.
The bowling attack also features World Cup rookies with Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Dwaine Pretorius, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi and Tabraiz Shamsi all going to the showpiece tournament for the first time.
Coach Gibson and the selectors decided against including experienced all-rounder Chris Morris or adding some variety to the attack in the form of a left-hander like Beuran Hendricks.
“I feel like all the roles are covered for whatever the conditions. We have guys who can bowl 140+, which is very important, and a couple of wrist-spinners. Dwaine is a batting all-rounder, as is Andile in his own right, although he needs to raise his game with the bat. But he also has skill with the ball.
“Chris doesn’t fit that role for us as a batting all-rounder, so in terms of the balance of the side and the roles, he needs to bowl 10 overs for us. I understand he has x-factor, but we know Anrich Nortje, who we have followed for a long time and he did very well in the MSL, can bowl 10 overs and we need to be very confident of that in terms of selection otherwise it puts all the other bowlers under pressure,” Zondi said.