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Without Jacques Kallis and the injured Graeme Smith, South Africa's task to end a 15-year trophy drought has got a lot harder
May 9, 2013
Take 45% away from a house and you could be without the foundations, some of the walls and maybe even the roof. Take 45% out a car and it will be minus the engine, the gearbox and perhaps the safety belts. Take 45% out of South Africa's one-day squad and it is missing Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis.
Between them, the pair have played 514 ODIs. The remaining squad members have only amassed 652. Had Smith been fit and Kallis not opted out, they would have made up almost half of the experience and would have more games to their name than all the remaining batsmen collectively.
Kallis alone has played more matches than all of the bowlers combined. He is one of a handful of survivors in the international game from the inaugural Champions Trophy. He was part of the 1998 South Africa team that won what was then called the Wills International Cup but has not been able to add major tournament silverware to his CV since then.
Neither have South Africa. Now they will attempt to break the 15 year trophy drought without two of their sturdiest pillars. But what do they miss out on besides experience? After all, in 12 tournaments after that - four World Cups, four World Twenty20s and four Champions Trophies - South Africa returned empty handed despite having the services of both Smith and Kallis for all but one event. Smith did not play the last World T20 in Sri Lanka but Kallis was recalled to the format specifically for the competition.
In fact, some of the time the two heavyweights were deemed the cause of the team's shortcomings at major tournaments, especially the 2007 one. Smith and Kallis were among those accused of being unfit in West Indies and Kallis was blamed for dramatically slowing down the chase in a group stage match against Australia in that World Cup.
But those examples are exceptions. More often than not, the pair are credited for forming the consistent base that has allowed South Africa to win matches and series, albeit not the most important ones.
On reputation alone, they would earn a place in most teams. Kallis' two-in-one ability has given South Africa what Gary Kirsten often calls a 12th man who does more than carry drinks. Smith has frequently come under the spotlight for being out of form in the 50-over game but he always rectifies that with important innings at important times. Since January last year, he has notched up three half-centuries and two hundreds but it is not the numbers that illustrate his real worth, especially not this time.
It is Smith's value as a captain without the title that will be missed most because AB de Villiers is still uncertain in the job. De Villiers has admitted he is still finding his feet and that is obvious in some of his decision-making, such as fielding positions and bowling changes. Over the last summer, Smith was obviously assisting him with both despite having relinquished the leadership role after the 2011 World Cup.
With de Villiers also taking up the wicketkeeping role permanently in ODIs, he needs as much senior counsel as can be provided. In Smith and Kallis he had two of the best. With both gone, he is now the most experienced man left and will have to rely on the willingness of Hashim Amla and instincts of Faf du Plessis to assist where needed.
There is also the question of how South Africa will strengthen their top-order without the big two. One of the solutions could involve bringing Kallis back. The selectors will have to ask if he feels his mental state is up to making the trip, because that was the reason Kallis cited when he asked to be left out. There's a chance they may succeed, because Kallis has always been a man who responds to what he thinks is his duty.
Without Smith, Kallis may be told the team needs him and he will likely agree no matter what his own feelings. Should Kallis come back in, he will occupy his usual spot at No. 3 in the batting order, which would require someone, like du Plessis, to play a makeshift role at the top. The same would apply if an allrounder like Chris Morris, who has had a good IPL, is called up.
South Africa may not want to go into a major tournament with players operating out of position so they could seek a like-for-like replacement for Smith and keep Colin Ingram at No.3. Four candidates stand out, with Henry Davids leading the pack.
The Titans' opener is a classy strokeplayer, was the third-highest scorer in the domestic one-day cup, in which he averaged 40.90, and has played four T20s for South Africa and scored two fifties. He has been around for long enough to have developed a level head and is a confident and serious man, who will understand the importance of the role if it is given to him.
Quinton de Kock is the popular choice. The young wicketkeeper-batsmen made his name at the Lions through powerful hitting and caught the eye of the national selectors last season. He played three T20s and four ODIs, including one as a replacement for Smith against Pakistan in February, without much success. He is currently at the IPL where he has made scores of 2, 0 and 4 for Sunrisers Hyderabad. His inexperience will work against him, especially because South Africa cannot take gambles at this stage.
For that reason, they may turn to Alviro Petersen, even though he has not played an ODI since January 2012. Petersen is currently with Somerset and has adjusted well to conditions in the UK. In his first two Championships matches he scored 437 runs, including two hundreds. One was against Smith's Surrey and the national captain said his Test opening partner is hitting the ball better than ever.
The wildcard option is Richard Levi, who topped the one-day cup run charts with 620 runs at 56.36 but has not managed to translate that internationally. Levi has played 13 T20s with the highlight his century against New Zealand but his technical problems against the short ball and spin were exposed soon after. He seems resigned to not being included and put on his Twitter page that there are "plenty men in the country worthy of the spot".
Other names could include the likes Rillee Rossouw, Dean Elgar and Stephen Cook but none of have the gravitas of Smith or Kallis. Then again, who does?
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge