Maharaj cracks the nod as Linde misses out on Proteas T20 World Cup squad
There were no major shocks in the Proteas 15-member T20 World Cup squad that was announced on Thursday, barring the inclusion of Keshav Maharaj over George Linde, who was named as one of the three reserve players along with Andile Phehlukwayo and Lizaad Williams.
The 29-year-old Linde, who made his Proteas T20 debut in November last year and has since grown in leaps and bounds in his 14 appearances, was overlooked for 31-year-old Maharaj, who is uncapped in the shortest format of the game.
Maharaj is vice-captain to Temba Bavuma in limited-overs games and will be making his Proteas T20 debut in the opening match of the three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka that starts in Colombo on Friday, with the regular skipper having been ruled out of the series with a finger injury.
Cricket SA (CSA) head of selectors Victor Mpitsang was all over the place when asked to explain Linde’s omission.
“Unfortunately with the timelines we have [before the World Cup], the selection panel thought that Keshav is our number one Test spinner and has bowled really well in those conditions and that is obviously one of the reasons we have him there,” said Mpitsang.
“I know that George, I mean one thing about selection is that it is about the role clarity, and I know that with the bowling side of things, George did really well and he was one of the all-rounders that was picked in the side.”
The selectors picked three spinners — top ranked ICC T20 spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, Bjorn Fortuin and Maharaj.
“Bjorn is also a spinner up front and that is where the swing has come and that is why we went with the selection. Unfortunately George misses out even though he is one of the reserves but then we went with those three spinning options.”
The Proteas have consistently been among the favourites to win a major event since the late 1990s but have never made it past the semifinal stages of the World Cup.
Mpitsang said the selection panel is confident they picked a team that will win the global showpiece, which starts next month in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
“We came up with a squad that we thought was well balanced for those conditions and we have a group of 18 players that we feel can win us a World Cup.”
Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen were named as the top six and will need to be in their best form to score tonnes of runs in the hard-to-score subcontinent conditions.
SA has always boasted a fearsome fast-bowling attack and it will be no different this time with Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortjé expected to lead the pace attack to complement the three specialist spinners.
Wiaan Mulder and Dwaine Pretorius have been entrusted with all-rounder responsibilities while Phehlukwayo and Linde will be joined by Lizaad Williams as travelling reserves.
Linde will probably be disappointed and rightly so as he is fancied as a decent all-rounder who should have made the 15-member squad.
Linde would also probably feel that, given that Maharaj was unlikely to be omitted as the vice-captain of the team, he deserved to crack the nod perhaps in place of Fortuin, who is also an all-rounder, though he has not been given enough game time building up to the World Cup.
“When it comes to George, he is one of the all-rounders. He has done well with the ball and I agree, but we have gone with the seaming all-rounders [Mulder and Pretorius],” said Mpitsang.
“Obviously on a question between George and Bjorn Fortuin, when we go with a left-arm spinner, we thought that Bjorn had the upper hand because he is the all-rounder, that’s one reason.”
There was no place for Faf du Plessis, Chris Morris and Imran Tahir.
CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith said Du Plessis and Morris were unavailable for international return and that Tahir missed out as the team invested their trust and development in Maharaj, Shamsi and Fortuin.
Temba Bavuma (c), Keshav Maharaj, Quinton de Kock (wk), Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram, David Miller, W Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortjé, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen.