While selection convener Andrew Hudson is totally content with the starting 11, he said in Johannesburg on Wednesday that “we have just tweaked our reserve strength slightly to suit expected conditions and the tactical situation”.
Uncapped Rory Kleinveldt and Faf du Plessis have been chosen as the prime bowling and batting cover, while Thami Tsolekile will again tour as a reserve wicketkeeper.
Barring a major loss of form or injury, Tsolekile is probably the most likely to play because of concern about the ability of AB de Villiers’ admittedly wonderfully athletic body to handle the strain of both keeping wicket and being a key batsman. Hudson told Business Day that a final decision on the wicketkeeping berth would need to be made but this was unlikely to happen before the Australian tour.
“We need a long-term solution to the wicketkeeping berth and it’s certainly on the selectors’ minds. We will need to apply ourselves to questions like, is AB keen and able to do the job or do we need to start grooming a new incumbent?
“But we’ll maybe only do that after the tour, it will be a hot topic to talk about.
“AB keeping wicket in England gave us the edge in that series with a recognised batsman at No7 but we will go to Australia with an open mind and be cognisant of his fitness and the demands of keeping affecting his batting,” Hudson said.
The selectors have clearly lost patience with Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s erratic form this year and he will have some much-needed game time with the KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins, having sat on the Proteas’ bench for several months.
Hudson said the selectors believed Kleinveldt could have the same dramatic effect Vernon Philander had when he was called up from the same Cape Cobras side a year ago.
“In Australian conditions, we believe Rory will get nice movement and he hits the deck.
“He’s been just behind Vernon in the overall averages in recent years, he’s been bowling with good pace for the South Africa A side.
“He’s done his time, he’s bowled well in four-day cricket and performed for a number of years and we believe he could be similar to Vernon in the way he came through. Plus he’s useful as a batsman down the order, just adding to the package,” Hudson said.
Du Plessis lost confidence on the England tour and during the ICC World Twenty20, but appeared to be on the comeback trail in his last innings when he blazed 65 off 38 balls against India.
He will be on standby to cover any middle-order holes, with Jacques Rudolph on hand to fill in at the top of the order if necessary.
Du Plessis averaged 85.57 in last season’s SuperSport Series, second only to Hashim Amla (90.50), and there was a big gap between him and the likes of Alviro Petersen (62.76), Justin Ontong (59.81), Tsolekile (59.50) and Colin Ingram (57.88).
Petersen, who broke his hand fielding for the Highveld Lions in their opening match of the season, is expected to be fit to play in time for the first Test starting in Brisbane on November 9.
“By all accounts he’ll be fine, I’ve had no red flags from the medical committee,” Hudson said.
Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Thami Tsolekile, Rory Kleinveldt, Faf du Plessis, Robin Peterson.