Sri Lanka in South Africa 2011-12 December 5, 2011

Former SA selector says it's time to experiment


South Africa should use the upcoming three-Test series against Sri Lanka to deepen their pool of international players, according to the former national selector Hugh Page. Sri Lanka travel as the underdogs - not only do they have the historical disadvantage of never recording a Test win in South Africa, but their current form is dismal - they have not managed one Test victory this year. Page sees it as a chance to blood fringe players ahead of a year which includes tours to New Zealand, England and Australia.

"If you are going to give guys an opportunity, this is the series to do it," Page told ESPNcricinfo. "South Africa currently have a very healthy situation, the nursery is full. But, they don't want a situation where when some of the old guys go; you have five or six totally new players."

Page, who was part of Omar Henry's selection panel nearly ten years ago, identified two key areas for South Africa's selectors to zone in on: wicketkeeping and batting. The former is a particularly prickly issue, with no clear successor being earmarked in place of Mark Boucher, who had a poor series against Australia and is under pressure to produce with the bat. Page identified one candidate who could be tried.

"Mark Boucher probably does not have a long time left and I like the look of Dane Vilas," Page said. Vilas plays for the Cobras where he bats in the lower-middle order and boasts a first-class average of 46.62. He scored an authoritative, unbeaten 161 in a match against the Titans in this year's SuperSport Series.

According to Page, South Africa's top-six could also use a shake-up, which would involve moving Jacques Rudolph down the order. "I would recall Alviro Petersen. He should open the batting and Jacques Rudolph should come in the middle order," Page said.

Petersen was dropped in favour of Rudolph for the two-Test series against Australia. Rudolph topped the SuperSport Series rankings last season and has the same so far, this season. But, Rudolph had an unremarkable return to Test cricket, top-scoring with 30 in four innings. His opening stands with Graeme Smith never lasted more than 40. Petersen and Smith had nine opening stands of at least 50 in the nine Tests they played together. "Petersen and Smith also form that left-right combination which is quite a nice asset to have," Page said.

South Africa's attack is not a cause of concern for Page, although he would like to see an injection of youth with players such as Wayne Parnell and Marchant de Lange on the radar. de Lange has only played 14 first-class matches but made a big impression in last month's tour match against the Australians, where he took 5 for 56. Page suggested South Africa emulate their recent rivals when it comes to fast-tracking players. "Look at Australia, their two debutants [Nathan Lyon and Patrick Cummins] took five-wicket hauls in their first series. Same with Vernon Philander. We should do something similar with our youngsters."

Seamers are expected to play a major role in the series, with the hosts likely to prepare pitches that favour pace and bounce. Sri Lanka are depleted in the pace department due to injuries. Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Kulasekara, Shaminda Eranga and Dhammika Prasad are all injured. "When we go there, they won't do us any favours, so we shouldn't do them any over here, especially when they are down," Page said.

While Page was in favour of experimentation in the Test squad, he warned that the ODI leg of the tour may prove trickier. "In the one-dayers, we will have to be wary of them, they are a very good side and we should be sensible in our selections there." South Africa lost their three-match ODI series against Australia 2-1 and, after crashing out of the World Cup in the quarter-final stage, still have a few unanswered questions about the make-up of their limited-overs squads.

The South African selectors have some time before they pick the ODI squad but are expected to announce the Test squad on Tuesday. Sri Lanka's tour will begin next Friday, with a three-day warm-up match against South African A in Benoni.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 8, 2011, 13:06 GMT

    hmm...It is agree that the SL current form is pathetic ...but they needs to come back to their former position..i think they should learn their mistakes from the last series against Pakistan. In ODI Malinga and Tisara perera was balled well. thisara perera has in good form in these days.But overall batting was very poor.Dilshan , Chandiml , paranawithanaand Mathews have to comeback and put some runs on the board. then we could have 6 main batters including sanga and mahela and also in the balling department welagedara and Mendis and tisara perera have to balled well in the series.In the ODI matches i have no doubt that the SL squad is more than capable with the SA squad.But in tha casr of Test matches SL have to woek really hard to Win the series.

  • Shakti on December 7, 2011, 11:34 GMT

    @SunAndSea...Ntini is old and retired,Tsotsobe is unfit and lacks pace,Duminy's technique is very poor,Tsolekile was not a good keeper,Zondeki & Ngam lacked fitness.Prince is actually decent technically except for his inability to play the short ball when it is very accurate.Philander is definitely good,he can be a good successor to Shaun Pollock.The quota system has prevented some of South Africa's best talents from being on the international stage.Reeza Hendricks ir a player South Africa should be moulding into a solid test top order batsmen.Hendricks is not going to play much limited over cricket as he isnt aggressive but skills point at test success.

  • Jack on December 7, 2011, 6:35 GMT

    @ S_African - because Duminy, for all his lack of form, scored a big, match-winning century in an away test against against Australia and Ingram, Miller et al have not.

  • Maruthi on December 6, 2011, 17:17 GMT

    SA can definitely try some of their new players, but they need not stress the underdogs status of SL. They shouldn't forget what players like Sanga, Mahela, Mendis, Mathews are capable of. Sanga is in the form of his life and he has a very good away record as well. For Mahela, it's really a matter of one innings before he can start winning the matches for SL. Being an Indian, I'm really looking forward to this series as eagerly as Ind vs Aus series. Especially to Sanga vs Steyn battle. Good Luck SL!!!

  • Findlay on December 6, 2011, 16:13 GMT

    If I had to choose between the two, it would stick with Duminy, a talent for the future to invest in against the worst SL side I've ever seen. People are forgetting about Ingram, Levi and Miller, these guys are much better options. But I think you can guess why they're not playing.

  • vigi on December 6, 2011, 11:22 GMT

    SL don't know, that they are in trouble and are relaxing. This shows how dum they are. Every cricket fan knows that SL is performing rubbish cricket. The top nations are using SL to improve their young player and improve their rankings. The funny thing, is that SL haven't done anything to improve this situation. Same useless captain and a team made up of villagers from no where representing a top cricketing nation.This series will surely bring us SL fans deep embarrasement. I feel like insulting the SL cricket board. They can't even pay the players and many other hopeless descision. SL CRICKET IS FINISHED. SL ARE HISTORY!!!!!!!!!! After two years or even a years time, people will say that SL used to be a top nation in the top ten, but now no more. SL will soon give way to Ireland occupy their position in the top ten. SL FANS, I FEEL SORRY, BUT ITS OVER.

  • Joe on December 6, 2011, 6:18 GMT

    @Manula Herath, Sri Lanka's only saving grace might be that they are so rubbish thatsome of their matches have been put on the smaller grounds like East London and Kimberley where the limited overs pitches are slower. That Lankan "A" side played most of their matches in places like Potch and in early season when there is nothing in them for the bowlers. No-talents like Kandamby aren't going to be rocking on to the front foot at Kingsmead, Centurion and the Wanderers!

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2011, 2:11 GMT

    very good idea hugh page. quota sustem is bad . only merit should be there

  • Jack on December 5, 2011, 17:31 GMT

    @ Dale-force - Page was not suggesting Alviro replace Rudolph; he proposed that Alviro open the batting, and Ruddolph move down the order. It will probably amount to Alviro replacing Prince.

    @ S.Jagernath. If the quota system is still in force, as you so assuredly claim, please explain why Makhaya Ntini, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, JP Duminy, Loots Bosman, Thami Tsolekile and Monde Zondeki were dropped, or were not returned to the side post haste?

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2011, 17:03 GMT

    Mr Page and Wessels, Don't get ahead of your selves. Sri Lanka is a good team. They are just going through a tough patch. These things you are saying really helps SL as a team to motivate them self to beat South Africa. Thanks for motivating our team! This is exactly what we needed. and also FYI - Last time a Sri Lankan team toured SA, Sri Lankan A team beat SA A team in the one day series 4-1. And this young team travelling to SA has few members from that winning SL A team.

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