The announcement this week of the 15 players who will travel to New Zealand and Australia for the World Cup was a fairly mundane affair because the majority of the squad were considered certainties beforehand, which must be good heading into such an important tournament.
The World Cup chosen by the selectors – and that’s the one that matters! – differed from mine (published here on November 29) in just a couple of places. While I believe David Wiese’s day as an international all-rounder will still come, I am pleased that left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso, who was growing into his role well before the most ill-timed of injuries, will be on the plane to Australasia.
I do believe the selectors have erred, however, in not selecting Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who I would have picked ahead of the inconsistent Wayne Parnell.
The former number one-ranked bowler in ODIs (as recently as May 2013) has had injury problems since then, but underwent ankle surgery in the winter and has been playing limited-overs cricket for the Highveld Lions since October.
In the Momentum One-Day Cup, he has knocked over 12 batsmen in six matches (making him the leading wicket-taker), averaging 18.08 and conceding just 4.42 runs per over – excellent figures that show he is close to his best form once again.
In the RamSlam T20 Challenge, although his economy rate was a little high at 8.14 runs-per-over, he claimed 14 wickets in 11 games – joint second-best in the competition.
For me, Tsotsobe is perfectly capable of performing a couple of roles at the World Cup: He has the ability to take wickets with the new ball, especially in swing-friendly conditions, and has skills with the old ball that allow him to be used in the middle overs as well.
There have admittedly been instances when Tsotsobe has not had the perfect work ethic but if the whispers are true that the team did not want the left-arm seamer in the squad then that would be a most disappointing example of the tail wagging the dog.
Things like ProteaFire and team culture and spirit are all good, but when they become the over-riding factor, the end rather than the means, then there will be problems, just as England’s stifled team have discovered in their descent down the world rankings. Tsotsobe may not be the perfect team-mate, but one hopes the selectors decided to exclude him based on on-field performance rather than what the players wanted.
Coach Russell Domingo has obviously had a major hand in taking Parnell with the Proteas on their intercontinental travels, having worked extensively with him at the Warriors.
The left-arm paceman and lower-order batsman does have the X-factor coaches are often so fond of, but the 25-year-old has not displayed the consistency needed at international level for me to have faith in him being a match-winner at the World Cup. The crucial death overs are a key weakness for him as well.
The omission of a genuine all-rounder like Ryan McLaren, who suffered the most ill-timed loss of form, or Wiese means the Proteas will have to bat Vernon Philander at number seven to ensure they have five frontline bowlers, which I believe will be necessary on the generally good batting pitches in Australia.