AB's keeping days are numbered
It is ironic that the two most valuable players in the South African team at the moment are the most fragile. AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis are both sensational cricketers.
They are immeasurably valuable to the national team because between them they basically cover the bases of four players. This enables South Africa a luxury not afforded other teams and in fact rarely has that happened in the history of test cricket. The bottom line is that their selection presents significant options for team flexibility and depth.
However, some alarm bells are ringing.
Kallis has reached the stage where his workload needs to be critically managed. I would go as far as to say that he must consider adopting only a batting role in the international arena. What he has managed over his career is extraordinary and his effort has been colossal, but the body can only take so much.
To get the most out of him some decisions need to be made and made soon. Graeme Smith has his finger firmly on the pulse regarding Kallis and his monitoring of the situation will be of paramount importance. If you remember, it was during the second test in England that suddenly severe back spasms forced him onto the inactive list and at the time some serious concerns were voiced by those on the medical staff that I spoke to at Leeds regarding his bowling future.
The last thing SA need during such an important series in Australia is Kallis pulling up lame midway.
AB has a similar situation but with him having more time on his side and with so much to offer, his dilemma is compounded. This upcoming series will be the last chance saloon in my book for AB.
He is a brilliant cricketer and a definite match winner and nothing should detract from his batting excellence. His demanding dual role is stifling his influence on results. Few could even think of accomplishing what he is proposing at the moment.
AB has chronic injury issues that need to be constantly managed and right now they are cause for genuine concern. It is an on-going process and will remain that way for most of his career. Should he struggle in the fitness stakes in Australia he should immediately give up the gloves to Thami Tsolekile. Should he not bat to his fullest potential he should also give the gloves to Thami.
De Villiers has the skill level to totally destroy any attack and the effect that he should have batting at number five could be devastating. If he was to walk out and grab an attack by the scruff of the neck and plunder as we are accustomed to seeing him do, he could well be the difference in the series.
Should he have the fitness and freshness to walk out and play his natural game successfully, Australia could be on their knees when he is finished as he has the ability to compile big scores in test cricket at a rate that takes the game away from the opposition.
He will look back on his recent performances with the willow and realise he has not achieved as he would have liked. If there is any way that his keeping duties are detracting from his batting excellence, and I suspect they are, then he should drop the gloves.
The last thing SA need during such an important series in Australia is De Villiers pulling up lame midway.
These two players provide South Africa with a unique advantage anyway such is their capacity to enthrall with their batting skills alone. It would be foolhardy to compromise on that.