Test squad could be picked in the pub

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

AB de Villiers for Dane Vilas. Dane Piedt for Aaron Phangiso. And that’s that: off to the pub. If SA’s test squad for the tour to India starting next month is based on the side that went to Bangladesh in July, the selectors’ deliberations might have been as uncomplicated as that.

Those changes would also preserve the racial balance of the squad. Seven of the 15 in Bangladesh were of colour, which almost squares with what Cricket SA (CSA) told Parliament in May, that squads have a “50% target (of players who are not white) but merit selection prevails”.

Whatever merit means in that confused context, the colour of SA’s cricketers has been at least as significant as their ability since 1889.

All will be revealed in Johannesburg on Thursday, when convenor Linda Zondi names the squads to play four tests, five one-day internationals and three Twenty20s in India.

Zondi and his panel would not have learnt much from the Bangladesh test series, what with almost two thirds of the rubber washed out. In fact, they would have gathered more information from SA A’s tour to India last month.

That SA’s depth of talent is not what it should be – they failed to win any of their five matches – was one lesson.

Another was that Piedt is over the serious shoulder injury he sustained a year ago. Happily, he bowled 112 overs in the two four-day games – more than any other player.

Still another was that Quinton de Kock seems to have cured himself of the amnesia that made him forget he is among the game’s most dominant batsmen.

After he eked out 100 runs from five innings in Bangladesh, the sensible decision was made to drop De Kock for the second test, send him straight to India with the A side, and make Vilas’ 72nd first-class match his test debut.

The move worked. De Kock smashed centuries in both his one-day innings and a third in a four-day match. So, come back the prodigal stumper: all is forgiven. Bad luck Mr Vilas, but thank you …

Not so fast, former selector Hugh Page said: “Dane Vilas hasn’t really had an opportunity. It would be unfair to drop him after one test (in which he was behind the stumps for just 88.1 overs and did not bat).

“De Kock had a long stint in the side and he’s been struggling for a while. Vilas took a long time to kick the door open, and now that he has done so he deserves more of a chance. Besides, a spell out in the cold never did anyone any harm.”

As for SA’s bowling balance, “I would rather go with one less seamer to make room for another spinner.” That would seem to mean places for Piedt as well as Simon Harmer and perhaps even Imran Tahir, provided he overcomes a thigh injury that forced his return home from Nottinghamshire last week.

Piedt and Harmer are both off-spinners, but that is all that connects Piedt’s cluster bomb of varying threats to the intense focus of Harmer’s approach. As we have argued in these pages before, pick both, please.

Who sits out if Tahir also cracks the nod? In the pub, they’ll say, “Don’t be dof – take 16 players.”

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