De Kock’s injury and Steyn’s ‘return’ merely part of puzzle for India series
South Africa’s management could have some sleepless nights trying to determine their best 11 players for the opening Ghandi-Mandela series cricket match next week.
The Proteas square up against the world’s number one team, India, in three tests this summer, with the first of those set to start in Cape Town next Friday.
There will also be six one-day internationals and three T20Is, but the immediate focus will fall on the longest version of the game.
South Africa have assembled their strongest squad in years.
AB de Villiers is back and so are Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
But with their availability come selection headaches.
However, Proteas coach Ottis Gibson said last Friday it was the kind of problem he was happy to wake up to.
But that “problem” could have become even more complex this past week after Quinton de Kock cried out during the test against Zimbabwe with a strained hamstring.
De Villiers took over the gloves unexpectedly, but when asked if he would continue to perform the dual role of keeper-batsman he said: “I’ll chat to coach about that one. I’m not sure. Ideally, I would not like to keep and just focus on my batting and make sure I play for as long as possible for South Africa.
“I feel that [keeping] gets in the way a touch. Long story short, no, but um, ja, it’s up for discussion.”
Ja, well, no fine. That comes across as “good of you to ask, but no thank you. But, maybe we can chat . . .”
If De Kock does not pull through for Newlands and De Villiers declines to mind the wicket, Gibson and company will have to find a replacement keeper who can bat.
Heinrich Klaasen of the Titans comes to mind, having previously spent time in the South Africa camp. He would be making his test debut on the back of a healthy first-class batting average of 46.47.
There are other issues, too. If Faf du Plessis is fit to play in Cape Town, they will need to fit him in the batting line-up.
Gibson says if Dale Steyn is fit he is an automatic choice, but who will be sacrificed for him?
Asked about how he thought the team would be balanced, De Villiers said: “That’s a tough question, I’m not 100% sure. Faf will take over once he comes back. There are definitely headaches coming the selectors’ way.
“I mean, if Dale’s fit, Faf comes back . . . I don’t know, it’s tough to say. All the guys seem to be in good form and luckily it’s not my issue.”
When it was put to Morne Morkel that he might be competing with Steyn for a berth, the tall speedster, who took a five-for against Zimbabwe, said he would leave such decisions to the selectors.
Allrounder Chris Morris has been added to the Proteas squad for the first test against India. He has recovered from a groin injury and replaces fast bowler Duanne Olivier in the 15-man squad, selected only for the first match of the series.
The Indian tour itinerary is:
January 5: SA v India 1st test, Newlands, 10am 13: SA v India, 2nd test, SuperSport Park, 10am 24: SA v India, 3rd test, Wanderers Stadium, 10am February 1: SA v India, 1st ODI, Kingsmead, 1pm 4: SA v India 2nd ODI, SuperSport Park, 10am 7: SA v India, 3rd ODI, Newlands, 1pm 10: SA v India, 4th ODI, Wanderers Stadium, 1pm 13: SA v India, 5th ODI, St George’s Park, 1pm 16: SA v India, 6th ODI, SuperSport Park, 1pm 18: SA v India, 1st T20I, Wanderers Stadium, 2.30pm 21: SA v India, 2nd T20I, SuperSport, 6pm 24: SA v India, 3rd T20I, Newlands, 6pm