JOHANNESBURG – Beyond the good form they showed domestically, the selection in the Proteas Test squad of Senuran Muthusamy, Rudi Second and Anrich Nortje also came down to how they fitted into South Africa’s strategy for what will be a difficult three-Test series in India.
South Africa’s problems in the sub-continent in the last five years are well documented – in the last eight Test matches in the region, they’ve won none.
In the team’s last series in India, they were thumped 3-0, with only the rain in the Bangalore match saving them from the embarrassment of a whitewash.
And given the radical changes around the structure that supports the team post the World Cup, and the retirements of some legendary players, the challenge in India this year will be severe.
Corrie van Zyl, acting as the director of cricket – one of the most significant changes made in the World Cup wash-out – said picking the squad for the three Tests wasn’t easy.
“It was difficult: we are coming off an off-season,” he said yesterday.
Cricket SA and Van Zyl have worked hard to try and ensure there are no cobwebs when the first ball is bowled at the ACA-VDCA Stadium in Visakhapatnam on October 2.
The likes of Aiden Markram, Temba Bavuma (the new vice-captain for the Test team), Muthusamy, Dane Piedt and Zubayr Hamza will all head to India next week as part of a spin camp that will be held in Bangalore.
Markram, Theunis de Bruyn, Second, Muthusamy, Hamza, Nortje, Piedt and Bavuma are also in the SA A four-day squad that will face India A in two matches in mid-September.
Piedt and Muthusamy will provide crucial depth in the spin department as South Africa look to learn the lessons of previous tours, especially last year in Sri Lanka, when in the second Test, Keshav Maharaj shouldered the brunt of the spin-bowling burden as the sole front-line spinner.
“Dane had a fantastic season, and he gives us a specific skill-set for those conditions as the off-spinner,” said Van Zyl, who in another of his acting duties, was interim selection convener for the two squads.
“If the conditions were to force us to go with three spinners, then Muthusamy comes into the equation, and obviously then his batting becomes crucial too.”
Piedt and Muthusamy have been vital cogs for their respective franchises in recent years, with the Cape Cobras spinner topping the wicket-taking table in the four-day series last summer with 54 wickets.
“All three newcomers to the Test side have more than earned their spurs through impressive performances in last season’s Four-Day Franchise competition,” – CSA Acting Director of Cricket, Corrie van Zyl. pic.twitter.com/G12FK0OTX4
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) August 13, 2019
Second has been among the most consistent domestic batsmen of the last three seasons, and was central to the Knights’ triumph in what was then known as the Sunfoil Series in the 2016/17.
Last year, he was the best batsman on the South African A team’s tour to India, scoring 235 runs in three innings at an average of 78.33.
With Dale Steyn retiring from Test cricket last week, Nortje provides the pace back-up for Kagiso Rabada.
“If you are not going to spin the ball, then you need to be able to bowl fast, and Anrich will give us that,” said Van Zyl.
The tour will also represent a look at the new structure set up around the Proteas following the disappointing World Cup campaign, a structure still being refined.