The 15th man

No one will make it to the World Cup unless they’re a very good cricketer – or unless they play for Namibia. It is worth remembering that when talking, as people inevitably will, about the composition of South Africa’s squad.

What is particularly galling is uninformed criticism. “Dippenaar can’t play the short ball, Donald’s body won’t last, you can’t play two spinners, there’s no reserve wicket keeper…” We’ll get on to those questions in a moment.

But by far the most irritating and irresponsible cheap shot would be to automatically and unquestioningly assume that Charl Langeveldt – the ’15th man’ – was included in the squad to fulfil the informal quota of five black players.

The national selectors may have erred by not selecting him in any of the 10 one day internationals played this summer but that is hardly Langeveldt’s fault. And it isn’t his fault that the standard of domestic cricket is so weak in South Africa either.

Earlier this summer the Boland seamer returned a remarkable analysis of 1-12 from seven overs against EP in the Standard Bank Cup. He was also the pick of the bowlers for SA ‘A’ against Pakistan (2-20 from six overs) when the tourists were blasting their way to victory in a rain affected match in Benoni.

His first-class returns also clearly demonstrate a bowler with exemplary control conceding just 2.3 runs per over in the Supersport Series and producing some extraordinarily economic spells.

Against Border Langeveldt’s figures were remarkable – 17-10-18-3 and there were other examples.

Nobody is pretending that Langeveldt will be in the starting line-up but what kind of bowler would you prefer as a back-up? A fiery, risky strike bowler just as likely to win a match as lose one? Or a steady, reliable seamer never likely to be belted out of the ground but also unlikely to pick up a fifer?

No one complained when Langeveldt was chosen for the tour of Australia at the beginning of the year and no one should complain now. Like Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock, Langeveldt deserves our full support. There are no bad players at the World Cup (apart from a couple of batsmen from Windhoek, perhaps!)


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