CAPE TOWN – If one of a number of all-rounders can put their hands up with the bat, and Rassie van der Dussen continues his good form, it could see the likes of David Miller and Aiden Markram missing out on the Proteas squad for the World Cup.
South African coach Ottis Gibson said that the “search continues” for a batting all-rounder following the seven-wicket victory over Pakistan at Newlands on Wednesday, which saw Faf du Plessis’ team clinch a 3-2 series win.
But it’s all about getting the team balance right for the World Cup, which makes the No 7 position crucial.
Andile Phehlukwayo has done well with the ball, and played some valuable innings too, but Gibson seems to be waiting for Lions youngster Wiaan Mulder to put his hand up at international level.
Of course, both could play, as they did – along with another all-rounder in Dwaine Pretorius at Newlands, which saw the currently out-of-touch Miller sitting out.
Gibson is waiting on JP Duminy to get back from injury as well, but is confident that having two or even three all-rounders won’t be detrimental to the batting strength.
“Look, I think so (that three all-rounders can cover for the missing specialist batsman). We’ve been searching for a batting all-rounder, if you like. But again, we didn’t get to see them (on Wednesday night),” Gibson said.
“But we know that they can bat – we just want to know which one of them is good enough to bat at seven, and score the sort of runs that we want. So, we didn’t get to see that tonight, so the search continues for an all-rounder, I guess.”
Mulder did not bat at Newlands, but didn’t excel with the ball either, taking 1/20 in three overs.
In contrast, Phehlukwayo (2/42 in nine overs) and Pretorius (2/46 in 10) were the stand-outs as Pakistan were restricted to 240/8 in 50 overs.
But Mulder has a first-class average of 43.08 after 20 matches, scoring a career-best 146 for the Lions last week.
“I just think, speaking to everybody, he (Mulder) got a good hundred last week. Everybody seems to think that he is the best batter of all the all-rounders. Therefore we wanted to have a look at him, as we have been looking for a number seven batsman who can bowl. And he seemed to fit that bill,” Gibson said.
“But we didn’t get enough time to see him, as he was injured earlier in the season. Hopefully we can give him more opportunities in the Sri Lankan series.
“It’s been unfortunate for Aiden, as it seemed like he was playing on a different pitch in some of the Tests and had so much confidence.
“I have spoken to him and he knows where he stands. He will play in the Momentum (One-Day) Cup (for the Titans), and we will see what lies ahead for him.”
Another reason for the extra all-rounder strategy was that Du Plessis wanted to increase the bowling options at his disposal, while Gibson has been impressed by Van der Dussen’s cool temperament.
“Once we have people injured, it becomes difficult to balance the team. Therefore, you saw the three all-rounders today, trying to balance the team – a good fit for the captain, if you like, on the field. He just felt like he was a bowler short. Therefore, the three all-rounders played today,” Gibson said.
“Hopefully, all the guys who are injured will be good to go for the Sri Lanka series, and we can get somewhere close to the team or squad that we have in mind (for the World Cup).
“He’s (Van der Dussen) done very well, a credit to himself. When games are so tight, and opportunities are so scarce, somebody like him coming in and taking his opportunity is a credit to him – the way he’s gone about his game.
“When he’s needed to be aggressive, he’s been aggressive. The one thing I like about him is that he is very calm at the wicket – the pressure doesn’t seem to affect him in any way.
“He knows exactly how he is going to set up his game, and I’m quite comfortable sitting and watching, knowing that he’s at the crease.”