Proteas' selection conundrum
Selection for the test match in Perth is a crucial issue for both teams. The South African selectors have been very consistent as far as test selection is concerned. They have stuck with the same combination over a period of time. This was possible due to the success of the team and the fact that injury hasn't played a role in selection for a long time.
This situation, which was both ideal and also comfortable for all concerned with the process, has now changed. There are some injury concerns in the squad. There is also the matter of poor form regarding Imran Tahir and Jacques Rudolph.
The easiest place to start in selecting the final eleven for this all-important series decider is to establish which players are certain selections for the team. Captain Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen will open the batting. Hashim Amla will come in at his usual No 3 position. AB de Villiers will play and keep wicket and bat at five. South Africa's latest batting hero Faf du Plessis should occupy the No 6 position.
I believe Robin Peterson will fill the spinner role in place of Imran Tahir who had a nightmare in Adelaide. Vernon Philander will come back in alongside Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. I am certain that Rory Kleinveldt will retain his spot after his much improved performance in Adelaide.
The question is what about the No 4 position? Should Jacques Kallis be fit enough to bat and field at slip, he has to play. South Africa cannot go into a match of this magnitude without Kallis if they can possibly avoid it. He was struggling with injury in Adelaide but it hardly affected his batting.
Should Kallis play, the team will deviate from using seven specialist batsmen and go back to using six with Robin Peterson filling the allrounder role. This will mean that Jacques Rudolph will lose his spot in the team. Sadly for Rudolph he hasn't been able to establish himself in the team since coming back. He had a number of opportunities both at the top of the order and in the middle order but failed to contribute consistently in either position.
If Jacques Kallis is unfit then the selectors will have to decide whether to give Rudolph another opportunity or go with Dean Elgar in that position. Ryan McLaren has been drafted into the squad and the selectors may consider an all-out pace attack, bringing McLaren in at seven in place of Robin Peterson. I can't see that happening though.
The final eleven should be: Smith, Petersen, Amla, Kallis, De Villiers, Du Plessis, Peterson, Philander, Steyn, Morkel and Kleinveldt. The pitch at the Waca will be lively. It will provide steep bounce and pace with lateral movement. The wind plays a big role in Perth as well. The "Freemantle Doctor" as it is called there, assists swing bowling. The bowlers have had a tough time in the series so far, having to deal with batsman-friendly conditions. That is about to change.
Perth will be a fascinating contest. I can hardly wait.