Apart from Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and David Miller, the rest of the batting line is anybody’s pick. In that light, can South Africa afford to bench Hashim Amla for the one final series before the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019?
One would have thought South Africa would tread more cautiously after the stunning Test series loss at home to Sri Lanka. As Sri Lanka walked away with rare, unexpected honours, South Africa were left pondering several questions including the caliber of their unsettled middle order, albeit in Test cricket. But a glance across to their one day squad, and there are not too many comforting answers there either.
Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s captain, is outclassed only by Hashim Amla who boasts of a formidable reputation in a team that has increasingly seen the depletion of experience over the years through the retirements of former captain, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers, the latter making the surprise announcement in the course of last year’s Indian Premier League. Although the notion has floated that come the hour, South Africa may press upon AB to reconsider his retirement, at the moment, South Africa are in search-and-seek mode.
Apart from the skipper, Quinton de Kock, the wicketkeeper-batsman, who has entrenched himself and David Miller who now finds a more regular place in the vacant gaps left behind, there is little by weight of experience to back up South Africa. While the reputation of the quartet is not in question, the South African batting line looks far less formidable without a more regular, established list of players regularly showing up. That South Africa are still looking to fill the potential gaps this late into the run up to the World Cup is evident in how they have chopped and changed teams between the one day international series against Pakistan and now Sri Lanka.
While the bowling line up is looking promising with the return of Dale Steyn, the old warhorse, and Lungi Ngidi, unless the team is backed up by enough batsmen in form, South Africa’s usual contenders as favourites to the World Cup is looking a little shaky even if the captain and the coach, Ottis Gibson, have gone to great lengths to reassure that it is not the case.
While Cricket South Africa explained that leaving Hashim Amla out was not a case of dropping the player, and that Jean Paul Duminy could come into the mix in the latter half of the series against Sri Lanka, with the rest of the South African batting line up in such flux, one would have thought with this being the last leg of the run up to the prestigious event where South Africa have stumbled from feeling jinxed to being ramrod stiff to their own detriment, they would play a mock up of having a near full strength team and thereby, judge where to plug the leaks to ensure the boat does not sink.
That they are using the gap left by Amla’s brief absence to still find the answers to one of the many questions tells quite the story of where South Africa really stand when it comes to their ambitions of lifting the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy for the first time. The usually consistent, formidable line up and reputation that follow South Africa to the world cups only to beat a humiliating retreat is currently not even in sight.