OPINION: Why Big Vern is the man for the Proteas number 7 spotNovember 24, 2018
24 November 2018 11h56
With the ICC Cricket World Cup in England just a matter of months away, fights for spots in the Proteas best xi are becoming increasingly more intense.
Coach Ottis Gibson has shown an inclination to go a 6-1-4 formation – if one can use a football formation – when it comes to picking the Proteas ODI team. This boils down to 6 batsmen (including wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock), an all-rounder at number 7 and four bowlers – made up by the fast bowling trio of Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi (currently injured) and Ieg-spinner Imran Tahir.
Veteran Hashim Amla, although currently not scoring the volume of runs that we have come accustomed to from him over the years, will most probably be opening the innings with de Kock. Unless AB de Villiers miraculously comes out of retirement soon, the number three spot seems to be a cat-fight between Aiden Markram and Reeza Hendricks. Though both have had their moments over the last few months, Markram’s part-time off spinners might just be the deciding factor which secures him the spot held down by Jacques Kallis for so long.
Positions 4, 5 and 6 will most likely be filled by captain Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy (also currently injured) and David Miller with Heinrich Klaasen and perhaps Christiaan Jonker fighting for the spot as back-up middle-order batter.
It is the number 7 position though which will be giving Gibson sleepless nights for the foreseeable future. Andile Phehlukwayo, Wiaan Mulder, Chris Morris, Vernon Philander and perhaps even Farhaan Behardien are probably the most likely candidates to fill the void.
Phelukwayo and Mulder have played the bulk of the most recent ODI’s in that position and, with a reasonable amount of success with neither having done anything spectacular to knuckle down the vital all-rounder’s spot. Morris can be lethal with both bat and ball and possesses what sportspeople generally refer to as “x-factor” but also has a tendency to blow hot and cold. He was on fire last night with the new ball in the Mzansi Super League when he removed Klaasen and Miller in successive deliveries and can also be destructive with the bat at the end of the innings.
I honestly don't understand why Vernon Philander hasn't been leading this ODI all-rounder conversation. All the other options have been underwhelming. Morris, Pretorious and Phehlukwayo just aren't cutting it. Why has this thing been complicated so much though?
— Wolfgang Storm (@WolfgangStorm) November 3, 2018
Behardien on the other side, might just be a wildcard. Although a relative under performer on the international stage, his ability to play the roll of the finisher (especially in domestic cricket) can’t be completely discarded. It’s a fact that with the current quartet of bowlers, the tail looks rather long with either Steyn or Rabada coming in at 8, which is probably one (or even two) spots to high for both of them. That might work into Behardien’s favour as he is regarded as a specialist batsman who can bowl a bit, rather than the others who are all bowling all-rounders. He will then likely have to share the duties of 5th bowler with Duminy and Markram.
My personal pick for the all-rounder’s spot though is Vernon Philander. Big Vern’s skill and abilities with the ball are well known and his batting in all forms of the game has come on in leaps and bounds. He currently holds down the number seven position in the test side and has made telling contributions with the bat in recent times. He also has the ability to hit “the long ball” and score quickly at the back-end of the innings.
It’s his tendency to make the new ball talk and take wickets up-front that swings the balance in his favour. In English conditions this might just be a key weapon in Du Plessis’s arsenal and one that can see his team make great starts and put the opposition under pressure early on.
Vern has been labelled a specialist red-ball cricketer for far too long – he has only played 30 ODI’s since making his debut in 2007 – it’s time for him to be backed as the Proteas’ all-rounder for Cricket World Cup 2019…
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