Cape Town – The South African squad for the ICC WorldTwenty20 tournament in India should stave off – just about – any major hue andcry from the diverse array of critics in
It is about as “balanced” as it could be considering thatLinda Zondi’s national selection panel have to negotiate certain extrachallenges, in the 15-strong party make-up, not faced by their counterpartselsewhere on the cricketing planet.
I’d suggest that the wise men have tiptoed through aminefield and emerged with no more than the odd mangled toe.
There will be those, insistent in their unwillingness toaccept anything other than merit principles, who lament certain exclusions; thetwo most prominent sacrifices are probably the Morkel brothers, Morne andAlbie.
Yet there will also be a sector wondering why, consideringthe ramped-up transformation drive at franchise level this season, this Proteasgroup contains six player of colour whilst the squad which made the semi-finalsof the last World T20 in 2014 had eight.
So in the eternal “sport versus politics” conundrum, youcould say the selectors have perhaps found an acceptable medium in thisinstance and might even warrant a mild ripple of applause for it.
I feel very sorry for the lanky Morne Morkel, who may havebeen omitted at least partly, and quite unjustly if so, for the very reasonthat he has run in so enduringly and uncomplainingly for the Proteas’ cause inall formats in recent months and a perception may exist in the corridors ofinfluence that he is on waning batteries this season.
The strike bowler must be close to gutted about the latestdevelopment, especially when you bear in mind that he was, unusually, one ofthe most visibly emotional SA players in the dramatic seconds immediately afterthat cliff-hanger World Cup 2015 semi-final defeat to New Zealand.
It was a case once again of “so near, yet so far” for thecountry in a major ICC one-day tournament, and an occasional clouded by theunsettling Philander-Abbott affair in the lead-up to a match the Proteasnevertheless threw the kitchen sink at.
Believe it or not, South Africa have just about as good achance of any side at the looming event; a personal belief is that T20 is theirbet at significant glory in this time of general transition.
And Morkel – hardly getting any younger at 31 -- will not bethere to experience it, unless the recalled Dale Steyn continues to be dogged byinjury and cannot go. (He must, surely, be the next cab off the pace rank ifthe Phalaborwa Express fails to leave the platform?)
Then again, recent T20 international statistics suggest thatMorkel’s non-selection is more unfortunate than it is inexplicable: he has hada fairly rough time of it in his last six appearances in the format, sportingunflattering combined figures of 2/198 in 19.1 overs.
Do the maths and it ain’t great.
As for the failure of big-hitting Albie Morkel – a bit of aniconic T20 figure in India -- to crack the nod, his cause probably wasn’thelped by an untimely bout of back problems of late.
Ahead of that inconvenience, though, he had been showingsigns of fresh appetite domestically, and was also player of the match when theProteas clinched the T20 mini-series against India in Cuttack last October.
I noticed on Twitter than Morkel’s Indian-based fan club aremore than bemused about his no-show.
There are relatively few contentious other SA selections forthe jamboree, with the squad marked by (at least) eight-strong specialistbatting firepower and pleasing inclusions for both Rilee Rossouw and DavidMiller; I had wrongly calculated on Sunday that one of the left-handedpower-strikers would fail to make the cut.
Nor is there too much reason to quibble with the preferenceof left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso to the greener Eddie Leie as back-up toImran Tahir in the dedicated slow-bowling department.
Phangiso has impressed more often than disappointed me forhis cool ability to stifle the flow of runs in limited-overs internationals,even if he doesn’t come across as a natural wicket-taker of special regularity.
His fulsome, unreserved apology for that liquor-relateddisciplinary breach several months ago is where that episode deserves to endand if anything being back on board with the national team should rekindle fullestfocus from the Lions stalwart.
My main concern is whether he might complete an unpalatabledouble – remember this is a much shorter event too – by failing, as he did atCWC 2015, to get a single game ...
*Follow our chiefwriter on Twitter: @RobHouwing