• Saturday, February 28, 2015

Honeybee Proteas


When worker bees fill honeycomb with nectar to turn into the delicious golden syrup we enjoy on everything from yoghurt to bread, they do it systematically. They do not leave any gaps in the hexagonal holes because that would be wasteful and maybe even weaken the structure. For a few months now, that is what South Africa's have had to do.
Since the Champions Trophy last June, they have been filling gaps and at the World T20, they have two more. Faf du Plessis and Dale Steyn are both nursing hamstring injuries, they may not feature in the opening match against Sri Lanka and, with the quick turnaround between games, their availability for the rest of the tournament may also be in doubt. Replacements are unlikely to be called up just yet, because South Africa will want to hold onto the possibility the pair will return when it matters so others need to step into their shoes.
South Africa need a leader, a batsman and a bowler, who are dependable enough not to dilute the strength of their team, and all of them have to come from within the squad in Bangladesh.
At least, they have the first of those covered. AB de Villiers is the automatic replacement for du Plessis as captain. He is the current ODI leader and led this T20 side until 14 months ago. He is also the only member of the group experienced enough and willing to skipper. Hashim Amla, the other option, has made clear his aversion to captaincy.
De Villiers may also have to occupy du Plessis' No.3 spot with the only spare batsman in the squad, Farhaan Behardien, coming in lower down. Behardien does not seem an obvious du Plessis replacement. He has limited game-time in national colours, a modest record and not much recent exposure on the international stage.
Apart from a T20 against Australia in which he neither batted nor bowled last week, Behardien previously turned out for South Africa in their forgettable ODI series in Sri Lanka where he was the weakest link. Behardien scored three runs in three matches and looked at sea against spin. It was a performance that haunted him, especially because he was dropped shortly afterwards.
"The last time I was in the subcontinent was a tough tour for me," Behardien admitted. "I've laid a few demons to rest." Behardien went back to work in domestic cricket and finished as the sixth-highest run-scorer in South Africa's domestic one-day cup with 362 runs from 12 games at 51.71 which included a century and two fifties. He captained the side when Henry Davids was unavailable and regained confidence, but not his national place with any certainty.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, March 21, 2014

Last modified: 3:31 am Friday, March 21, 2014

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