Domingo wary over de Villiers keeping
AB de Villiers can no longer be considered a permanent wicketkeeper especially in shorter formats, according to South Africa's coach Russell Domingo. Although de Villiers will don the gloves in the third Test against West Indies at Newlands, in the absence of the injured Quinton de Kock, he is unlikely to carry the same responsibility into the T20s and ODIs which follow or the World Cup.
"There are times when AB is going to have to keep and we are very fortunate that he can pick that up. He hasn't practiced his keeping in about six months and he is probably keeping as well as he ever has. He has always found keeping in one-day cricket more tiring, especially with the captaincy, it's more of a burden on him. I'd prefer him not to keep in one-day cricket," Domingo said. "Where there is an opportunity for him not to keep, we are hoping to pursue that. I'm sure we will have another keeper in the one-day side now that Quinton de Kock is not there."
South Africa play three T20s and five ODIs against West Indies in 19 days between January 11 and 28 and will have to use those matches to introduce another gloveman into an already settled 50-over squad. Morne van Wyk, who was part of the 2011 World Cup squad, is the leading candidate not least because he is also an opening batsman, which is the other position de Kock occupied. South Africa's medical team remain hopeful de Kock will recover from his ankle ligament tear in time to play some part in the World Cup but will want to cover their basis in case he is not and they will face a tricky decision with the 15-man squad having to be named by January 7.
Their more immediate concern is the New Year's Test where their conundrum extends to issues in front of the stumps. South Africa will be forced to reassess their attack on a surface which Domingo expects will "offer a little bit more nip," but also calls for a contribution from a spinner. Newlands takes turn later in the game and South Africa cannot depend on Imran Tahir to produce that consistently or effectively. That much was evident from the number of times they have dropped him - three - in the last two years and to give themselves another option, the South African selectors have included Simon Harmer in the squad.
The Warriors offspinner was overlooked in favour of Dane Piedt earlier in the year but has since come back into contention for two reasons. The first is that Piedt has only played one first-class match following a three-month lay-off from a shoulder concern and the second, because South Africa are planning long-term. Although they won't play Test cricket again until mid-2015, their next two away tours are to Bangladesh and India and they want a strong spin contingent for those trips.
"We've got a lot of cricket in the subcontinent in the next few months so we want to get to know Simon a bit more and then we will make a call on whether we play him," Domingo said.
That does not mean Piedt, who took eight wickets on Test debut in Harare in August, has fallen behind in the queue, just that South Africa want to ensure he is fully fit before making a comeback. "It leaves Dane Piedt with time to get himself where he needs to be. He needs to play some more cricket particularly after a severe shoulder injury," Domingo said.
Someone else who is fighting for a spot on those tours is South Africa's senior opening batsman, Alviro Petersen. His run of innings without a century has extended to 25 and the New Year's Test will mark exactly two years since he raised his bat to a hundred, which has caused calls for his head but Domingo is trying his best not to hear them.
"It's a tough one because he seems to be playing really well in the nets and even in the middle. He looks really good and I don't think a big score is too far away," Domingo said. "Even in this match, he got out playing a shot that he probably wouldn't play if he had to do it again."
For much of Petersen's lean run technique seemed his biggest problem as he struggled against the left-armers in the Pakistan and Australia attacks. But his shot at St George's suggested his temperament is failing him as well. He was tempted into a tennis-stroke by a short, wide delivery from Shannon Gabriel which has put him under even greater scrutiny. "He knows that if he doesn't score soon, he is under massive pressure," Domingo said.
Exactly when "soon" is yet to be determined because, as Domingo explained, there are other reasons to keep Petersen around for now. "He is an experienced player, a hell of a slip fielder and offers a lot in the team space," Domingo said. "We've just lost a lot icon players. It's not so easy to throw away a guy who is capable of scoring big hundreds. I still think he has got a lot to offer this team."
Petersen will know South Africa's transition is progressing well and a player like Stiaan van Zyl is nipping at his heels. "It does feel like we are moving in the right direction. We have a lot of youngsters in the side and you will go through some ups and downs. We've been going through more ups than downs," Hashim Amla said. "It's just to be patient with the guys we have because they have been identified as the future of South African cricket."
The future may be glimpsed at the New Year's Test.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent