"You feel for him because he didn't go great in that last game. It is difficult when you are on the outside always looking in and you come in for one game and then out for another. From a confidence perspective you are always looking over your shoulder," Shaun Pollock told ESPNcricinfo at an ICC event in Sydney. "A period of time allows you to settle in and understand exactly what your role is, from his side I can feel for him but then in times he has come in, a number of times he hasn't performed and has just ended up putting himself under more pressure."
Parnell has only appeared in two full series for South Africa in the last three years, in which they have featured in 12 rubbers. He took complete participation in five matches against England in August 2012 and three against Zimbabwe in August 2014 but was only used sporadically in series against Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Pakistan, India, Australia and West Indies since then.
Parnell has only marginally been able to improve on his average- 29.76 since the beginning of 2012 compared to 30.10 overall - and economy rate - 5.24 in the period under consideration versus 5.57 overall - while his strike rate has got worse from 32.4 to 34.0. Although he made his name on swing and pace, his reputation in recent times has been about watching batsmen take swings at him, and South Africa seem to know that.
"One day he's going to get you four, and the next he's going to go for some runs. We understand that; that's the way Parney plays," Faf du Plessis said. "We want match-winners as part of our team because they blow games open. If he is in the side again, I expect him to blow the next game open. You never expect him to go at three runs an over and get one or two wickets. He either gets four wickets or he goes for runs. We're very comfortable with that because that's the kind of bowler he is."
But after a hefty defeat to India in which Parnell was the most culpable bowler - conceding at 9.44 runs per over - Pollock is not convinced he will keep his place in the starting XI for the match against West Indies. South Africa would want some extra protection with both bat and ball, especially after their collapse at the MCG and with the news Vernon Philander has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.
"Kyle Abbott would be a natural fit. He bowls with the new ball, gets it to swing upfront and gives an extra option at the death too. I wouldn't be surprised if they make that change," Pollock said. "Then, it will be the same conundrum as it's been for the last few months. Is it Parnell or is it [Farhaan] Behardien?"
If it's batting depth that South Africa are looking for, Behardien would be their choice even though he has a slightly lower international batting average (21.20) than Parnell (23.31). Behardien's domestic prowess was made with bat in hand, where he has been among Titans' best performers over the last handful of summers.
But Pollock thinks history more recent than that will bring Behardien into contention for the West Indies game. "Behardien had a good innings here against Australia and maybe they'll go back to him," he said. Behardien's top score of 63 came at the SCG last November. Since then, he has played six ODIs but only batted in three, and Pollock believes he has something to offer in the middle order, even if it is just security.
"I don't think you can really judge Behardien on his first performance against Zimbabwe. He had a back issue and he didn't get an opportunity to bat," Pollock said. "After what's happened with the batting, from a comfort perspective, they will maybe go the route of getting the extra guy in from a batting side and they see Behardien as the stronger batter." Which may mean Parnell will have to wait on the sidelines again.