Which way will SA go at the top?
Watching AB de Villiers and his men take on England in the twenty20 version of the game in England was interesting as it gave all of us an idea how the Proteas are going to approach the upcoming ICC World Twenty20.
There is, however, a bit of an issue at the top of the order that needs to be decided upon.
I purposely speak of it being a question of decision making as I believe that Gary Kirsten and De Villiers are at the point where the prospect of runs from Richard Levi is to be pitted against the experience and sure footedness of Jacques Kallis. This is not a case of one necessarily being better than the other, but one where the choice will be based on who will better serve the team and on whom the team can rely to come through for them.
When it comes to Levi, there are some who will use cricket speak to say that he is “due” a score having gone so many innings without success. So sticking with him in the group phase should not hurt South Africa at all and should he fail again (twice) then the rest of the Proteas' strong batting lineup will be able to cover for him and still make it into the Super Eights. Those saying so, do so in the hope of Levi rediscovering form in a match-winning innings that propels South Africa and gets him going through the tournament. That would be ideal but looks out of sight, as is often the case when a batsman is out of form.
The Kallis scenario is interesting because I am pretty sure that he would make the team anyway, whether Levi played or not, so it is a question of how he is used in the batting lineup. His experience can certainly be drawn from as cool heads are required when it comes to big tournaments. Kirsten is also not one to expect youngsters to win South Africa the World T20 or any other trophy, but more his senior players to lead the way.
As Kallis slid down the order in the two rain-shortened twenty20 matches that the Proteas played against England, it was apparent to me that he had to bat at the top of the order and be asked to utilise the power play and then carry on according to the situation in the game. It is simply a waste for Kallis to bat at number seven as he did a couple of times.
My own bet would be to use Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis at the top despite their similar approaches and ask them to use their talent to adjust to the roles necessary to potentially put the team in good positions. I am confident that both are able to do so; Amla showed this with a couple of uncharacteristic swashbuckling innings and Kallis is an IPL champion whose innings in the final at the top of the order was very important for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
It does not help things at all that Faf du Plessis is also searching for form as he, in good form, would be ideal for the job at the top of the order as an alternative.
Whoever is asked to do the job will have to be prepared to work outside their comfort zone in trying to get off to a good start in the batting, which is imperative in T20 cricket. I look forward to seeing what choices will be made.