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Proteas taking shape


SA's players know they always have to be on their 'A' game

Picture: Ryan Wilkisky BackpagePix

Proteas coach Ottis Gibson may have hoped that he would be closer to his final 15-man squad for the World Cup at this stage, but does believe the experimentation with a group of fringe players over the past 18 months is beginning to reap the rewards.

South Africa have trialed a number of players in the past few ODI series with an eye on the World Cup later this year, often resting senior players in the process. Bar a hiccup against India at home last year, the results have also still been forthcoming.

This was evident on Wednesday evening at Newlands when the Proteas closed out the five-match series 3-2 in the decider. Along with the series victory, a further boost for the Proteas has been the emergence of Highveld Lions batsman Rassie van der Dussen.

The tall right-hander was desperate unlucky not to walk away with the Man of the Series award in his maiden ODI series after stroking 241 runs, which included three half-centuries, at an imposing average of 120.50.

Crucially, he also showed his versatility by scoring runs at both the top and also in the middle-order. Such performances should see Van der Dussen claim a World Cup spot, even though there is stiff competition among the top-order batsmen.

Proteas coach Ottis Gibson, who serves on the national selection panel, was certainly impressed with Van der Dussen’s work.

“He was outstanding,” Gibson said of the 29-year-old. “He’s done very well and done a credit to himself. When games are so tight and opportunities are so scarce, for him to come in and perform like this is great.

“When he’s needed to be aggressive, he’s been aggressive.

“The one thing I really like about him is that he’s very calm under pressure. It doesn’t seem to affect him. He knows exactly how he’s going to set up his innings. I’m quite comfortable sitting in the changeroom and knowing he’s at the crease.”

Van der Dussen will have a further opportunity to press home his World Cup claims over the course of the upcoming three-match T20 series, starting at Newlands this evening.

Although it is change in format, Pakistan at the No 1 T20 team in the world and possess a variety of skillful players that will certainly put the home team under pressure.

With JP Duminy set to return from injury for the Sri Lankan ODI series starting in March along Van der Dussen’s red-hot form, this has suddenly placed David Miller in the spotlight.

For long time a regular in the Proteas white-ball teams, Miller has been rested for a couple of series now, allowing players such as Van der Dussen too take full advantage of their opportunities. So, after a quiet series against Pakistan when he did have an opportunity, Miller too wants to use the T20 matches to get going again.

“It is obviously quite challenging at times, but as a player you have to deal with something like that. We have committed to the bigger cause because we all want to win the World Cup as a country, so if the selectors want to try different guys that is something you have to accept.

“It allows for no mediocrity to creep into the squad, which means you constantly have to be on your ‘A’ game,” Miller said.