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Ken Borland

Now we know Boucher’s successor

Posted on February 17, 2012 by Ken

After a couple of years of fraught speculation, we finally know who Mark Boucher’s designated successor is – Thami Tsolekile.

Tsolekile’s inclusion in the list of 22 nationally-contracted players announced on Monday is not only a reward for how well the bizhub Highveld Lions wicketkeeper/batsman has done domestically, but also a clear indication that the national selectors have earmarked him as the successor to Boucher when the world record-holder hangs up his gloves after the tour to England ends in September.

“Yes, Thami wouldn’t be getting a national contract if we didn’t think he was the successor,” convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson told on Monday. “There’s obviously still a selection process that has to happen before any series, so you can’t take anything for granted, but it’s a decision based on his SuperSport Series performances over the last two or three years and also on the fact he’s never let the SA A team down.”

Finding Boucher’s successor has been a complicated business, with Dane Vilas, Heino Kuhn and Daryn Smit all making strong challenges as well, but Tsolekile has seemingly won the race thanks to his no-frills glovework and tenacious batting.

“Thami’s been a serious contender for a while, he’s 100% as a gloveman plus he’s been scoring runs. He made 58 against Australia in November on a difficult pitch and that showed he has some serious ability,” Hudson said.

Tsolekile’s long-term future as the South African wicketkeeper will, to a great extent, depend on how his report card looks after the England tour, where he is likely to understudy Boucher and play in at least one of the three county games before the first test.

“It’s definitely possible that Thami will go to England, it makes sense for him to go as an understudy,” Hudson said.

Tsolekile will have the advantage of having played at the highest level before, having appeared in three tests (including two in India) in 2004 and Boucher has already promised his aid to whoever his successor will be.

The 31-year-old Tsolekile is one of three newly-contracted players, the other new contracts going to Nashua Titans batsmen Faf du Plessis and Jacques Rudolph.

Despite being picked for the tour to New Zealand, Titans fast bowler Marchant de Lange has not been offered a national contract, but Hudson said the 21-year-old could well break into the group during the year.

“The fact that he’s not getting a contract at the moment does not detract from the fact that he’s a good player and he’s definitely in our plans going forward. As it is at the moment, he’ll only play in our test side if there’s an injury, but we have room to contract him during the year,” Hudson explained.

The presence of Ashwell Prince in the national contract list may appear to be an anachronism after his unceremonious dropping from the test side, but Hudson said the selectors were still looking at the number six position and the Chevrolet Warriors left-hander remained in contention.

“Ashwell’s presence is just because the number six position hasn’t been resolved yet, nobody has really laid claim to it. If Ashwell’s on-song, then he’s good enough and if he’s performing, then he’ll definitely be in the picture,” Hudson said.

The players who have lost national contracts are the injury-prone Nashua Dolphins batsman Loots Bosman and Chevrolet Knights all-rounder Ryan McLaren, despite the fact he was the leading all-rounder in the SuperSport Series with 576 runs and 26 wickets.

Nationally contracted squad: Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Ashwell Prince, Jacques Rudolph, Dale Steyn, Juan Theron, Thami Tsolekile, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

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