Two of South African cricket’s brightest comets will come around again today. Or are they going?
One was last seen in a South Africa shirt in June‚ the other in July. Neither would have picked a meaningless game at the country’s most unlovely major ground for their return.
But it is what it is‚ and AB de Villiers and JP Duminy are part of the SA Invitation XI who will play a 50-over match against the touring Bangladeshis at Bloemfontein’s oft renamed oval‚ where grey concrete crumbles all around and the pitch is about as interesting as dandruff.
The fact that South Africa’s squad for the one-day series against Bangladesh‚ which starts down the road from Bloem in Kimberley on Sunday‚ was announced more than a week ago tells us all we need to know about the lack of importance of today’s match.
If the game held any relevance for the national selectors‚ who have not yet had the chance to see South Africa’s players in one-day action this season‚ they would have waited until it was over to pick the squad.
Instead, this match’s only wider significance is to give the Bangladeshis the chance to attune themselves to white-ball cricket in South African conditions. And‚ perchance‚ to convince them that should they win the toss it would be a good idea to bat first for a change.
But‚ for De Villiers and Duminy‚ the game looms larger than it has a right to.
It will be De Villiers’s first game since the third T20 against England in Cardiff in June‚ the Titans’ first-class match against the Warriors in Benoni at the weekend excepted.
Duminy last played at any significant level in the first test against England at Lord’s in July‚ which was followed last month by his retirement from test and first-class cricket.
For De Villiers‚ who has chosen not to play in South Africa’s last 17 tests – or for more than a year-and-a-half – this is a chance to remind himself and the public what it means to be part of a South Africa team ahead of his anticipated comeback in the format against India in January.
Duminy will want to underline his white-ball worth now that he has given up a third of his international involvement‚ albeit in his weakest suit.
Both will be under pressure to perform, not because there are doubts about their ability, but because South Africa’s teams might just have moved on from them.
Like comets‚ players come and go. De Villiers and Duminy came a long time ago. Might they go in a blaze of glory?