National selection convenor Andrew Hudson admitted this week that “rotation policies can be unsettling” and gave the strongest possible hints that the experimenting was over and that the strongest possible team would be selected for the five-match ODI series against Pakistan.
Hudson also confirmed that neither he, the Proteas management nor coach Gary Kirsten had any regrets about resting their marquee players and having a look at “fringe players” for the national squad.
“It’s been extremely useful. Instead of saying ‘we have no idea how he’ll look at international level’ at least we have something to measure certain players against,” Hudson said. Kirsten believes strongly that young players can be ‘measured’ by far more than merely their runs and wickets when they play at the highest level for the first time. “You can see how comfortable they are in the environment, how much they want to be there and how much they want to learn,” Kirsten said last month.
So, knowledge has been gained. Is it good knowledge? Are the coaches and selectors pleased with what they saw?
“There’s no doubt there’s a lot of work still to be done,” says Hudson, ever the diplomat. “Although the Champions Trophy is the main objective in the next three months, we are not treating the Pakistan series as a ‘stepping stone.’ The series is extremely important and, from a selection point of view, we’ll be doing everything we can to win it. All the conversations I’ve had with Gary have revolved around playing our best combinations,” Hudson said.
Morne Morkel is still struggling with a calf injury so may not be fit until the final couple of matches. Otherwise, the Proteas will be at full strength. Well, almost. Fitness and health permitting, Jacques Kallis will be part of the Champions Trophy squad in England in June but will not be playing against Pakistan. It seems peculiar that he should be rested now when his next engagement will be a return to the Kolkata Knight Riders for another full season of IPL.
The long-term view, however, is pragmatic. If the great allrounder is to take part in the 2015 World Cup (less than two years away) then his time will have to be managed cleverly between now and then. And it’s not as though he needs to prove anything to Kirsten or show that he can ‘fit in.’
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