TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
YOU play for SA and face the best bowlers in the game at their freshest and armed with the new ball. You have a strike rate of 125.55: better than Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy. You scored a career-best 69 not out in your previous innings in the format. You should, surely, get a game.
Not if you are Hashim Amla, the owner of the stats above – who has yet to crack the nod in SA’s T20 series against Australia.
Might Amla feature in the decider at Newlands on Wednesday? If all things were equal, hell yes. But all things are far from equal.
“There is a bit of importance (in winning on Wednesday),” De Kock said on Tuesday. “We want to win. We know series wins against Australia don’t come easily. But there’s a bigger picture.”
SA play their first match in the World T20 against England in Mumbai next Friday. The conditions, the pressures and the expectations will be vastly different compared to those of a home series, even a home series against the respected Aussies.
Which is not to say Amla won’t stand up to those challenges. But the delicate balance of SA’s team means anything that looks like experimentation – even if it isn’t – will also look like confusion and the acknowledgement of weakness.
And it’s a dangerously short step from there to the kind of mental meltdowns that have afflicted SA in tournaments past.
So, having heeded the howls of public and press protest about AB de Villiers batting too low in the order that reached a crescendo after the 2014 WT20, SA are unlikely to move him from the top of the order.
Which means Amla and De Kock are fighting it out for the remaining opener’s birth.
Did that make the dressingroom wracked with tension between the two?
“Not really,” De Kock said. “Whoever is in that position will do the best thing that’s needed for the team to try and win a World Cup for once.
“There’s not much competition between me and him; there’s no beef; nothing like that.”
It helps that De Kock and Amla are among the least inward looking players in the game. There isn’t much ego to be bruised in either of them.
De Kock took a similarly evenhanded approach about which of SA’s openers should be the aggressor.
“It doesn’t matter who takes it on,” he said. “If we both go at it, so be it. If one of us gets out early we just carry on.
“It changes – even ‘Hash’ can play very aggressively, as we saw the other day.
“I always have a look to see that the strike rate is at 100%, and when the time comes have a go. If it comes my way I’ll try and get the job done.”
But he was happy that Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc were not among the Australians: “They’ve been the only two guys to hit me in the head so I’m glad they’re not here.”
SA will want another look at Dale Steyn, who came back from almost 10 weeks out with injury at the Wanderers on Sunday, and they will hope for signs of form from Duminy.
For all that, Wednesday’s game is a sideshow to the main event, which started in India on Tuesday.
Would Australia travel 11 000 kilometres to play three T20s if a WT20 was not glittering on the horizon? No. Do they want to win? Yes.
That’s all the reason SA need to play properly.