Morris’ big problem is that the difference between his good day and his bad day is so vast it makes him unreliable - Wayne Parnell had the same problem
Pick a South African World Cup squad. It’s been the fun game for cricket lovers over the last few weeks.
Name your 15 – not 19 like one chap from a magazine tried to do. How many batsmen? Do need three or four seam bowling all-rounders? Do you need a back-up wicket-keeper? Two spinners or just one?
Last May, as part of a series looking ahead to the World Cup with one year to go, I named a starting team for the opening match of the tournament against England. At the time I had Hashim Amla, Vernon Philander and Heinrich Klaasen in my XI. There was no Dale Steyn, no Rassie van der Dussen, no Reeza Hendricks and no Aiden Markram.
I can’t include Philander now, because of the doubts over his fitness, something which he seemed to have fixed last season. In addition, he’d be another liability in the field, and South Africa’s fielding despite showing signs of improvement in the limited overs series’s against Sri Lanka remains a huge concern going into the World Cup.
It’s among the reasons I can’t include Amla. His fielding has been very poor this summer, particularly his catching at slip. He’s not the fastest nor does he have the strongest arm, so would need to be ‘hidden’ in the field, and with the likes of Lungi Ngidi (slow) and Imran Tahir (erratic), South Africa can’t be ‘hiding’ too many more in the field.
Yes, Amla has an outstanding One-Day record, and in his last 10 ODIs, he is averaging 41.66. His average in the World Cup (across the two tournaments he has played) is 42.60, but how impactful has Amla really been in the World Cup? He has played in three knockout matches at those two World Cup tournaments – and his highest score is 16. In the other knockout match he has played, the 2013 semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy against England, he scored 1.
In a ‘virtual knockout’ match – a final group game against India in the Champions Trophy in 2017 – Amla made 35. South Africa lost. For all the argument about experience and his record, Amla has not done enough for South Africa when it has really mattered in tournaments.
Reeza Hendricks may not have stamped his authority, but he has shown sufficient form all season long to justify a spot, also he’s a better fielder than Amla. Markram would be my back up batsman, even though he has developed an infuriating habit in the limited overs formats of getting out when set – overall he provides a more rounded package than Amla; again he is better in the field, and he provides an option with the ball.
I’ve picked Chris Morris because of a ‘gut feel.’ Also, I like the balance he provides. I’m not a fan of the term ‘he brings an X-factor’ mainly because that provides an excuse when a player has a bad day. Morris’ big problem is that the difference between his good day and his bad day is so vast it makes him unreliable – Wayne Parnell had the same problem.
And yet here I am doing what the selectors did with Parnell in 2015, backing Morris’s ‘X-factor.’ If he is picked – which given the teams selected for the Sri Lanka series seems highly unlikely – I don’t expect that Morris would play every game. I’d have him instead of Anrich Nortjé however. He does the same thing as Nortjé – bowls fast – but he is a better fielder, is a good ‘death’ bowler and of course there’s his batting, which would add depth.
I’m putting a lot of emphasis on fielding because South Africa has not been good in that department this summer and it is an area that demands particular focus. It’s one of the reasons I spent a long time fretting over taking Keshav Maharaj ahead of Tabraiz Shamsi too, ultimately I have stuck with left-arm wrist-spinner, but there’s not much to choose and Shamsi really has to improve his fielding.
Here then is my World Cup squad, I don’t expect Linda Zondi would agree, but hey
Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (capt), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, JP Duminy, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi, Dale Steyn, Dwaine Pretorius, Chris Morris, Tabraiz Shamsi.