Give SA's young players time to settle
Nearly two years ago I interviewed AB de Villiers and spoke to him about his elevation to the captaincy of the one-day international side. In our chat he spoke of a time before when he was a schoolboy at Affies when the captaincy of the school’s first team was taken away from him and given to his friend, and teammate, Faf du Plessis.
I asked AB why it had happened and his answer was to say that we perhaps would talk about it over a beverage of choice and off the record at a different time. Suffice to say that was a nice way to hold on to the story and never let it out of the bag. Well, it seems the whole thing is happening again many years later, but not quite in the same way as this time it is not intended to be a permanent move.
Many would have found it a little on the strange side that De Villiers was named in the T20 squad to take on the New Zealanders with Du Plessis announced as captain.
The expectation is that if the usual captain is available to play, he would captain the team when he does and then when he is not playing, a stand-in is appointed. It is not the way that the powers that be went about it though as the issue was that AB was not going to play all the matches despite being in the squad.
De Villiers subsequently pulled out of the squad in order to have a rest and manage his workload, which is probably a sensible move given that he could have had to sit in the change-room and play second fiddle while Du Plessis went about his work as stand-in. By its very nature, standing in for someone is done when the person is absent. To do so when they are present is to take their place.
The performance of Faf as captain in the absence of AB has been adequate and, above all, important because it ensures that in a group that is very young and not filled with experience, De Villiers will have a lieutenant to bounce ideas off and work with in trying to mould the Proteas T20 side.
For a long time many have said that the best way to go with the T20 team would be to look at employing specialists, but there has been reluctance with many of the established test and one-day players being preferred. While their performances have been credible, younger players, who play more T20 than any other format, might provide more of a spark to the team.
It seems that is the direction the selectors are taking now as they try and figure out which of the younger players are able to do the job at international level. Consistent selection and backing of players has been the hallmark of the test match team’s success and that needs to be applied also to the shortest version.
Once a youngster is picked, it is important to stick with him and allow him the chance to learn at international level. The player too has to do his part of course, but he needs the time to settle.
There will come a time when the selectors must pick the best squad for a T20 tournament and when that time does arrive, it will be a case of integrating those who show the greatest promise and perform the best with the proven players such as AB.
The urge to go back to all of South Africa’s big name players must be resisted as it would render the exercise of exposing the youth to stiff international competition a useless one.
At the same time, there is no hurry. It takes time for some players to get well acquainted with the rigours of the international game. The likes of Chris Morris, Quinton de Kock and David Miller look to have the goods and might well be the next wave of South African talent.