August 13, 2001

Donald back in Test frame

Allan Donald is back in the frame, as far as Test cricket is concerned, and he will be joined on South Africa's tour of Zimbabwe next month by Claude Henderson, the Western Province left-arm spinner, the only uncapped player named in a 13-man squad by the selectors on Monday.

Donald, South Africa's premier fast bowler for the last decade and the only South African to have passed 300 wickets in Test cricket, has been included in both the Test and one-day squads for Zimbabwe. This contradicts earlier statements from Donald that he wished only to be included in the South African side for one-day internationals only and suggests a new resolve on the part of the United Cricket Board that players may not pick and choose how and when they would like to be considered for selection.

Apart from the 13 players named for the Zimbabwe Test matches, Jonty Rhodes and Justin Ontong will be added to the squad for the subsequent three Test matches.

Rhodes, according to convener of selectors Rushdi Magiet, is now also available for Test selection, "but was not chosen". Allowing that the selectors have also now signed a confidentiality agreement which forbids them to reveal what went on in committee meetings, this would nevertheless suggest that Rhodes will be available for the Australian tour at the end of the year.

South Africa should hope that he is. As the country's most experienced middle order batsman - with two tours to Australia under his belt - Rhodes would be an invaluable asset in the Antipodes, but the equivocation about his role in Zimbabwe hints that Rhodes' ambivalence about his roles as husband, father and Test player have not yet been completely resolved.

At the same time, Daryll Cullinan's position is no more clear. His contract with Kent precludes him from the Zimbabwe tour, but it is hoped that he will be available for the remainder of the season. Which includes Australia, a country he has toured twice previously with unhappy results.

So the squad for Zimbabwe tends very much to portray itself as a work in progress. There is no Mfuneko Ngam - still recovering from a shoulder operation - and no Nicky Boje - ditto. There is also no Roger Telemachus, in either the Test or one-day squads, which some might believe to be a reflection on the attitude of one who has no little potential, much of which still remains unfulfilled.

Henderson should get a Test match in Zimbabwe, ahead of Paul Adams, on the basis, said Magiet, that South Africa took Adams and Boje to the West Indies in order to have "an attacking spinner and a defensive spinner".

Presumably Magiet is saying that Henderson will be in Zimbabwe as a defensive spinner - Adams certainly does not fit this description - there to give South Africa's seam-heavy attack a rest and to provide variation. This might be unfair to Henderson's ability, but no doubt he will grasp the chance and leaving the theorising to the critics and selectors.

There is place in the squad for both Lance Klusener and Justin Kemp, who both seem to be fighting for the same place with Klusener's track record certain to push him into pole position, and Andre Nel.

With Donald around, Nel might again have to wait his turn, but South Africa's real concern will be sorting out the middle order. Neil McKenzie should be an automatic choice at this stage, but with the uncertainty about Rhodes and Cullinan not yet resolved, it is still not possible to say with any certainty who will batting at four, five and six against Australia in December.

The squad: Shaun Pollock (capt), Mark Boucher, Gary Kirsten, Herschelle Gibbs, Boeta Dippenaar, Jacques Kallis, Neil McKenzie, Lance Klusener, Justin Kemp, Claude Henderson, Allan Donald, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel. To join squad for ODIs: Jonty Rhodes and Justin Ontong.