Selectors compromise on most important squad

South African selection convenor Rushdie Magiet has not enjoyed a very successful run of late but the 15-man squad announced for the most important Test tour by the national team since readmission should earn him plenty of catch-up points.

Graeme Pollock made no secret of his desire to have as much experience as possible in the squad, not only publicly campaigning for the inclusion of veterans Allan Donald and Daryll Cullinan, but even trying to persuade Jonty Rhodes out of Test retirement. Four of the other selectors disagreed and the end result was a compromise with the dynamics of squad ‘unity’ playing a major role.

Some would have you believe that there is no such thing as too much experience, but with experience comes age, and with age comes an old body.

Things go wrong on old bodies more than they do on young ones. A fair point in the case of Donald and Cullinan as recent experience shows.

There IS such a thing as too much experience. Not only do many ‘experienced’ players become cynical, but the joys of a first-time tourist can be amongst the most natural of ‘uppers’ for a squad battling with morale problems.

Neil McKenzie, Jacques Rudolph, Boeta Dippenaar, Justin Ontong, Nantie Hayward and the greatest ‘scoop’ of all, Steve Elworthy, will all be first-time tourists to Australia.

‘Shots’ Elworthy comes from a different mould to most South African cricketers. He may be 36 but as he quickly points out, he didn’t start playing full-time, serious cricket until he had finished Varsity at the age of 24.

So he’s been playing cricket for a dozen years. So has Shaun Pollock, and he’s 28. In ‘cricket years’, they are the same age.

On an enthusiasm level, however, Elworthy is even younger. Magnificent for team spirits, witty, smart but also immensely street-wise’, he’ll make Pollock’s squad laugh and he’ll throw back Aussie verbal barbs with heavy interest.

Oh, and he’ll take wickets, too. You don’t ignore a man who’s > taken 31 wickets at an average of 14 in five matches. He is in serious form.

Rushdie Magiet made most of the selectors’ reasons pretty clear for the omission of Daryll Cullinan, but some he did not elaborate on.

“He hasn’t played for some time (1),” Magiet said. “He recently had an operation (2), he hasn’t had a fitness test (3) and he has a very poor record in Australia (4). And there are other reasons (5? 6?),” concluded Magiet.

Let’s not bother speculating what those other reasons might be, but for those who are outraged, appalled and disgusted by the omission, try to console yourselves with the thought that the happier the squad is in Australia the more chance they have of succeeding. Surely?

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