Van Zyl, Vilas, Harmer headed to India for CSA spin camp
Opening batsman Stiaan van Zyl, wicketkeeper Dane Vilas and offspinner Simon Harmer remain part of South Africa's national plans despite being dropped from the Test squad at various points in the 2015-16 season. The trio, along with four other batsmen and seven other bowlers, will travel to Mumbai for CSA's annual spin camp which will take place for a week from May 14.
Both van Zyl and Harmer have participated in previous editions of the camp and, given their uncertain place in the team, may view this as a lifeline, even though some of their competitors are accompanying them on the trip.
Van Zyl was dispensed with at the top of the order after a series of low scores against India and England. He was replaced by Temba Bavuma - who is part of the camp - against India, and then by Stephen Cook. After van Zyl's struggles against R Ashwin in particular - the offspinner dismissed him in all five innings in India - he was sent back to his franchise Cape Cobras, and moved down to a more familiar spot in the middle order. Despite that, van Zyl has indicated to the national selectors that he would like to challenge for a Test opening place again and could turn out in that position when the 2016-17 season starts.
Vilas also paid the price for a poor India tour and lost his spot to Quinton de Kock, who appears to have established himself as South Africa's long-term wicketkeeper in all formats. The importance of a back-up, however, has not been lost on the management. When de Kock was injured ahead of the Wanderers Test against England in January, Vilas was flown in as an emergency replacement and has since gone on to score big runs for Cape Cobras. He finished second on the run charts of the Sunfoil series first-class competition, scoring 761 runs in eight matches at an average of 69.18.
Like Vilas, Harmer dealt with the disappointment of losing his Test spot with solid domestic performances. After playing two of the four Tests in India in November 2015, he returned home to take 31 wickets in nine matches at 22.41 for Warriors to finish as their leading wicket-taker in the Sunfoil series and eighth overall.
Ahead of Harmer are three other spinners: chinaman bowler Tabraiz Shamsi, who is currently with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL and is not part of the camp, offspinner Dane Piedt, Harmer's replacement and South Africa's first-choice Test spinner, and left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj. Piedt and Maharaj have been picked for the camp, with Phangiso and Prenelan Subrayen, who had their actions declared illegal and then cleared in March this year. Among the younger talents is Cape Cobras' left-arm spinner George Linde, who has been contracted to the franchise for the first time for the coming season.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent