Morne van Wyk recalled to limited-overs squads
Morne van Wyk will move from behind the microphone to behind the stumps for South Africa's limited-overs series against New Zealand after being dumped from the squad earlier this year. Van Wyk, who scored a T20 century in January, missed out on the 2015 World Cup and spent the recent Bangladesh series in the commentary box. He will now replace Quinton de Kock, despite AB de Villiers' return.
South Africa's regular ODI captain de Villiers, who missed the ODIs and Tests in Bangladesh while on paternity leave, is back to face New Zealand but will only act as the designated gloveman in the T20Is. South Africa have all of their first-choice players available for the series, apart from Imran Tahir, who has only been selected in the ODIs, to give Eddie Leie an opportunity to push for a World T20 spot.
In the ODIs, Tahir is back and will join an almost complete frontline attack that includes Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, both of whom sat out the Bangladesh ODIs. Morne Morkel and JP Duminy will, however, miss the ODIs as they welcome their first-borns, and David Wiese has been selected as the allrounder in that squad, leaving no room for Ryan McLaren or Wayne Parnell.
The musical chairs in South African selection is the result of the wicketkeeper conundrum caused by de Kock's loss of form and subsequent redeployment to the A side, which has left the senior team without an opening batsman and a wicketkeeper. The only like-for-like replacement on the domestic circuit is van Wyk, but he may only be a stop-gap option, according to South Africa coach Russell Domingo, who said: "It probably is a short-term solution until someone else steps up and puts a hand up to do the job."
In fact, van Wyk's future may not even include the World T20, despite his recall to the squad, because South Africa want to find ways of looking forward to a younger crop. For now, de Villiers may keep wicket in the shortest format, and even open the batting as he did in Bangladesh, while de Kock finds his feet again. "We are grateful for AB to keep in T20s. It gives us a good balance for the team, especially as we are going to the World T20," Linda Zondi, South Africa's convener of selectors, said.
That begs the question that if de Villiers is available to keep wicket and van Wyk is unlikely to be able to push for a World T20 spot, why include him at all when instead the spot can be used to give an opening batsman like Reeza Hendricks a chance in ODIs, where South Africa have time to experiment before the next World Cup. Because, as Domingo explained, de Villiers has the burden of a heavy workload, which must be carefully managed.
"AB finds it extremely challenging keeping wicket, batting No. 4 and captaining the side. Of all the formats, he finds the ODI wicketkeeping role the most mentally and physically draining. AB has also got a history of cramping. We are pretty happy for him not to keep there," Domingo said.
The only other option, Dane Vilas, does not fit into the ODI side at the moment because of where he bats. "You can have a keeper at No. 6 or No. 7, if you have an allrounder in the top order, but the one we did have, Jacques Kallis, retired. Now our keeper has to be your top order allrounder. Dane Vilas is there and there about. He really impressed us in Bangladesh with his work ethic, his attitude, his skills and his batting looks a good option. But having two debutants at six and seven against a strong New Zealand bowling attack leaves us a little bit exposed."
Instead, there will be a bowling allrounder at No. 7 with Farhaan Behardien and David Wiese tussling over the spot that remains unsettled for South Africa. In recent months, it has rotated between Ryan McLaren - who was dismissed ahead of the World Cup, recalled for the Bangladesh series and did not play a game before being dropped again - Behardien, who played at the World Cup and whose medium-pace has come in handy, and Parnell, who continues to confound with inconsistency. Parnell has been sent on the A tour to India where South Africa hope de Kock will also rediscover his touch of a year ago.
Domingo has no doubt that he will, but is also in no rush for de Kock to find his way back, because when he does, Domingo wants him back to his best. "All players go through slumps in form and time away from the pressures of international cricket can be beneficial, particularly for a young player. We are hoping he can regain that confidence, work on one or two technical aspects and come back into the South African squad - when that is we are not sure - in a good space and putting in the performances we know he is capable of. He doesn't become a bad player after an ankle injury and eight or nine bad ODIs.
"With a string of low scores comes a little bit of self-doubt, lacking belief in your own performances, lacking belief in the way you are going about your preparation because it's not really working for you and you might try and change things leading into games. Time away from the side will do him good, put things in perspective for him, and help him to get that desire and hunger back to play for the national side."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent