Form vs. reputation: which is best?

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The Proteas must be the only team in the World Cup that are still not sure about their best 11 players. There are so many different opinions on the subject. All of South Africa seem to agree that Phangiso, Behardien and Parnell should not be in the starting 11 unless there’s an injury or illness. But the remaining 12 can all credibly claim  a spot in our mission to bring the trophy home for the first time.

The big question I have is this: do the current Protea selectors choose players on form or on reputation? It would appear that the simple answer is form, but I don’t think it’s as easy as that. For instance, Dale Steyn has taken five wickets in four matches at an average of 36, while Kyle Abbott has taken six wickets in only two matches at an average of 9.66. But if you had to play one of these men in the final, you would play Steyn based on his reputation.

On the batting front, Rilee Rossouw has scored 122 runs in two innings at an average of 122 whilst Quinton de Kock has scored 27 runs in four knocks at a measly average of 6.75. In this case, most would select on form, not reputation. The problem arises when you realise that QdK keeps wicket. So do the Proteas risk playing AB de Villiers as keeper, super star batter and captain? It may be a stretch too far.

I’m usually all for selecting players on reputation, because of all the clichés like “cream always rises to the top” and “form is temporary, class is forever” – but do these apply during a World Cup? I’m not really sure. My heart says select on reputation, but my head says we only have five matches left, (if we make the final) and we need players who are on form.

Proteas

So how should the Proteas side look for the next five matches? JP Duminy will be returning from injury, and will walk back into the team. I will comfortably say that Behardien should make way for him – an all-rounder coming in for an “all rounder” (sarcasm font). The issue, for me, comes in when Vernon Philander returns from his hamstring injury. In my opinion, the selectors can absolutely not drop Rilee Rossouw.

I think there are only two options:

Option 1: Bring Philander in for Abbott. Vern is the better batsman between the two, even though Abbott is in sensational form and is known as a great death bowler. I think if Abbott, Steyn, Tahir or Morkel lose their place it would be harsh on them – but Vern has to come in for someone.

The side would look like this:

De Kock

Amla

Faf

AB

Rilee

Miller

JP

Vern

Steyn

Morkel

Tahir.

This approach means that we have a decent batter down at eight and have four bowlers, while JP, Rilee, AB and Faf are options to make up the remaining ten overs.

Option 2: Option two is dropping an opening batsman who averages less than seven. (Surely the worst average in the World Cup for an opener?) Quinton de Kock has huge amounts of talent, but since returning from injury, he has been horribly out of form. Rilee Rossouw is an able deputy and more than capable of opening the batting. So this option then has two more options. You either drop De Kock down the order, maybe to six or seven and play him as a traditional wicketkeeper/batsman or you keep the same side as above but put Rilee up top with Amla and let Quinny come in with ten or 15 overs to go (no shine on the ball), and have a swing.

Amla

Rossouw

Faf

AB

Miller

JP

De Kock

Philander

Steyn

Morkel

Tahir

The second choice in this option is to drop De Kock all together. This option obviously means AB taking the gloves, which isn’t ideal, but you also then have an extra position for a bowler, in this case, Abbott. The team would then look like this:

Amla

Rossouw

Faf

AB

Miller

JP

Philander

Steyn

Abbott

Morkel

Tahir

Which is better?

My opinion has changed ten times since I started writing this. I just don’t know. One thing that always haunts me is that in previous big tournaments, we always seem to tank it (I refuse to use the c-word) in the batting department. We get into a winning position and then panic, and lose four or five quick wickets. With that in mind, I’d have to say option two is where I’m currently at, for at least the next five minutes.

I just think that if we’re five wickets down, needing 70 runs in the semi final or final, I’d feel most comfortable with De Kock walking to the wicket to face an older ball, while still having Philander on standby to come in. Whereas, if we’re struggling in the bowling department we can at least, in a desperate situation, throw the ball to Rilee, Faf or Super AB de Villiers if one of the other bowlers are struggling.

In a nutshell, if a bowler is having a nightmare, you can always give someone else a chance. If a batsman is having a throbber, that’s it – the opponents are getting closer to your tail. Does that make any sense?

This is obviously a huge topic of conversation lately. Let us know combination you prefer going forward in the World Cup. Tweet us @LeftBacks or leave a comment, we’d love to get the debate going.

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