March 28, 2002

South African one-day squad swells to 14

In yet another demonstration of selectorial indecision, Graeme Smith has been called up to join a South African squad that now numbers 14 for the fourth Standard Bank one-day international against Australia in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The squad for Saturday's game was originally due to be announced on Wednesday after the third ODI in Potchefstroom, a match that ended in a tie thus preserving Australia's 2-0 lead in the seven-match series. This squad was also intended to serve for the remaining four games in the series.

Instead the selectors have now added Smith to the original squad of 13, saying that it will be "re-assessed" after Bloemfontein for the last three games. The only conclusion to be drawn from all this is that at this point the selectors have no real idea of what is broken in the South African team and even less clue as how to fix it.

In Potchefstroom South Africa dropped opener Gary Kirsten and fast bowler Roger Telemachus, bringing in all-rounder Andrew Hall and Neil McKenzie to bat at number four. The inclusion of McKenzie pushed Boeta Dippenaar, the only top or middle order to show any sort of form in the first two ODIs.

Predictably enough Dippenaar failed in Potchefstroom as, for the third time, did Herschelle Gibbs. Smith, meanwhile, has opened the batting all season for Western Province and went in at three for South Africa in the second and third Test matches with Jacques Kallis dropping down to four.

If Smith is to open in Bloemfontein in place of Gibbs then why, it has to be asked, has Gibbs (and Kirsten for that matter) been retained? By naming a squad of 14 just two days before a match the selectors appear to be saying that they're still not sure of what 11 they intend to field on Saturday.

The common sense approach, surely, would have been to name an 11 or, at most, a 12 and then, if necessary, "re-assess" for the last three games.

With less than a year to go before the World Cup, it is clear that no long-term vision or plan has yet emerged. The only cause for optimism at the moment comes from the news this week that the original tenure granted to the selectors until after the World Cup has been rescinded and that a new panel will be elected at the United Cricket Board's annual meeting in August.

Whether that will be too late to make sense of the current confusion that surrounds the South African team remains to be seen.

The squad is: Shaun Pollock, Nicky Boje, Mark Boucher, Boeta Dippenaar, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Gary Kirsten, Lance Klusener, Neil McKenzie, Makhaya Ntini, Jonty Rhodes, Graeme Smith, Roger Telemachus.

Smith has been replaced in the SA 'A' team to play India 'A' in Kimberley from March 30-Apirl 2 by Griqualand West batsman Loots Bosman. Bosman's place as 12th Man in that team has been taken by his Griqualand West team-mate Zahir Abrahim.