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July 4, 2013
Morne Morkel, who limped out of the Champions Trophy with a quad strain, has been named in South Africa's squad to tour Sri Lanka later this month. The group will be under the control of newly-appointed head coach Russell Domingo and will play five ODIs and three T20s but no Tests because of a request by the SLC to postpone the longer format.
While Domingo has one pace ace back, he will be without another. Dale Steyn, has been left out of the squad as he still needs about three weeks of recovery after a side-strain and groin injury dented his participation in the Champions Trophy. Steyn played only one of South Africa's four games and will be rested to ensure he is fully fit for the upcoming summer which includes a trip to the UAE and incoming tours by India and Australia.
The rest of the fifty-over squad had a familiar look about it with only one change to the 15 who were at the Champions Trophy. Wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock has been recalled and could slot in at the top to partner Hashim Amla, although he will have to compete with Alviro Petersen for a place.
"Consistency in selection" has been one of convenor Andrew Hudson's catchphrases during his time in the job and it continues to be the mantra for the national team. As a result, the Domingo days begin in much the same way as the Gary Kirsten era ended although the demands on the new coach appear greater.
While Kirsten was tasked with securing the Test mace above all else, Domingo has been asked to maintain that stature and return South Africa's ODI squad to their form of years gone by - when losing a series was uncommon - and to have an eye on winning the 2015 World Cup. His building for that event starts in Sri Lanka.
"I want to try and get consistency in one-day cricket and stick to selecting a group of about 18 players over the next few years," Domingo said at his press conference in Johannesburg. "I don't think South Africa have won in Sri Lanka, so if you're looking for a tough assignment, this is one of the toughest. I would love to have hosted a team in South Africa and played in our conditions but that's not the cards that were dealt. This is a challenge but if we can get through with a positive result, it will be a good start."
An obvious speedbump on that road is the lack of seniority in the ranks. Graeme Smith could not be considered for the tour because he is still recovering from ankle surgery. Team management remains hopeful he will be ready for the Tests against Pakistan in October but will only have clarity by early September.
Jacques Kallis is the other notable absentee. He has not played an ODI in 17 months and speculation has grown over his future in the shorter formats. Kallis made himself unavailable for the Champions Trophy for personal reasons although Kirsten said he would be on standby for major tournaments.
Now, even that has become unclear and Domingo indicated there will be decision made on his further involvement in fifty-over cricket soon. "We're going to have to have a discussion with Jacques about his future in the shorter version," Domingo said. "We're trying to put a squad together that will take us to World Cups. There needs to be a discussion in terms of where he is at and whether we see him adding value in those tournaments."
South Africa squads
Although the World Cup is foremost in South African administrators minds', they also have an eye on next year's World Twenty20. Domingo has been in charge of the T20 squad since December. In what has been a largely experimental phase, South Africa beat New Zealand in a three-match series but lost to Pakistan.
Domingo now seems to have settled on an outfit, which will be captained by Faf du Plessis. Robin Peterson has been left out, with Imran Tahir the second spinner. The Pakistan-born legspinner has not played for South Africa since being smacked for 260 runs in a Test match against Australia in Adelaide, but has enjoyed a strong return in domestic cricket. Tahir took 12 wickets in the domestic T20 competition last season at an average of 23.58 and was the second-highest wicket-taking spinner behind Aaron Phangiso. Domingo hopes the two will combine well at international level too and that Tahir's wicket-taking abilities will come to the fore.
"To have him to bowl in the middle of innings is massive. With the conditions we will be playing in and the World T20 in Bangladesh next year, he has got to come into the picture," Domingo said. "His performances have shown he has overcome whatever perceived mental frailties he had after the Australia series. He is a tough guy."
Allrounder David Wiese is the only new face in the T20 squad. He has earned his place through strong performances with the A side and boasts a strike rate of 172.46 in the format. He was chosen over the likes of Marchant de Lange, who the selectors feel is still working his way back into form after stress fractures robbed him of a summer of his career.
De Lange has been included in the A squad to play Australia A in two four-day matches later this month as part of a plan to bring him back into contention for the senior squad. South Africa A play two unofficial Tests against their Australian counterparts and a fifty-over tri-series which also includes India A.
As is often the case, nobody will be able to accuse them of being underprepared when the big challenges arrive later in the year. But that has seldom been the main issue for South Africa's coaches to deal with. Instead, theirs has always been a case of resolving the mental conundrum that continues to hold South Africa back in major tournaments.
Domingo admitted healing the wounds from the Champions Trophy exit will be his foremost in his mind when the team tours Sri Lanka. "If anybody says it's not hurting, then their heart is not in the right place," he said.
"Whether we choked or not is another case but if you look at it, England are ranked higher than us, which says they have been playing more consistent cricket. For us to have the expectation that we could beat them was maybe getting ahead of ourselves. It hurts the players when we don't win and when we disappoint people. It will need some mending to get over." He hopes Colombo on July 20 will be the first band-aid.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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