Town – With 17 One Day
Internationals (ODI) left for the Proteas between
now and the 2019 World Cup in England, it is beginning to seem unlikely that
Philander and Dale
Steyn will feature in that squad.
But, speaking at Cape Town
International Airport on Friday, Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis insisted
that the door was still open and that both players could come into the mix
between now and then.
Steyn’s problems with injury have
been well-documented, but he is back to full fitness now and played in both
Test matches in Sri Lanka.
The 35-year-old, now back playing
T20 cricket with Hampshire, left that two-Test series with just two wickets to
show for his efforts and failed to get one more to overtake Shaun Pollock as
the leading South African wicket-taker in the format.
Still, Steyn is as hungry as ever
and has expressed his desire to keep playing cricket for South Africa for as
long as possible.
Steyn has only played in 12 ODIs since
that unforgettable World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand in Auckland in 2015
and his last ODI came in October, 2016 against Australia at Newlands.
Philander’s recent record in the
format is even more startling.
A controversial selection for
that Auckland semi-final ahead of Kyle Abbott, Philander has played just 2 ODIs since, the last of which came
all the way back in August, 2015 against New Zealand in Potchefstroom
Philander, considered one of the
best Test bowlers South Africa has ever produced, has played a total of just 30 ODIs since making his debut in 2007.
To put that into perspective,
22-year-old Andile Phehlukwayo now has 29 ODIs
to his name since a 2016 debut
against Ireland in Benoni.
While Steyn will always come into
the selection conversation in any format as long as he is fit and available,
the call for Philander’s participation in England is more complex.
The reason he is still being
spoken of as an option is because of the seam-friendly conditions that England
wickets have historically dished up.
There are few bowlers in world
cricket with more accuracy and control than Philander, and he has always been an
appealing prospect up north.
“Of course … anyone can
still put their name in the hat. There is a lot of time left,” Du Plessis
said on Friday.
“It’s about trying to give
guys game time and that’s going to be the challenge … where and when you fit
in different players.”
If Philander and Steyn are going
to stake a claim for 2019, they will have to start playing ODI cricket soon.
The Proteas host a three-match
ODI series against Zimbabwe that starts at the end of September, and that would
be the perfect opportunity to gauge where both players are in terms of what
they can offer this ODI side.
The impressive form of Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi in Sri Lanka, however, provides another stumbling block
for Philander and Steyn.
Ngidi is the leading wicket-taker
in the series so far with 10 while
Rabada will be one of the first names on the World Cup team sheet.
“I’m really excited about
our opening bowling combination of Kagiso and Lungi,” Du Plessis
“That’s very nice for us. They
strike for us and they get wickets.”
As long as that remains the case,
it is hard to justify giving the new ball to anybody else in England,
regardless of experience or proven pedigree.