Ryan Rickelton, the leading runscorer in this season’s CSA One-Day Cup, is eligible for selection for South Africa’s squad for their crucial World Cup Super League series against England in Bloemfontein this month. But he hasn’t been picked.
Neither has Dewald Brevis, who isn’t short of ways to earn handsomely without having to bother with playing for South Africa. Tristan Stubbs and Tony de Zorzi – the second and third-highest runscorers in the ODC – also didn’t crack the nod.
Rickelton wasn’t considered for South Africa’s Test series in Australia because he hadn’t had the ankle surgery he required to repair torn ligaments and deal with unnatural bone growth.
Understandably the selectors weren’t keen on sending him halfway across the world if there was a chance he could break down during a match. At the time CSA noted their policy of not selecting injured players.
Rickelton still hasn’t gone under the knife, but he is able to keep playing domestically with the help of injections. In 14 provincial innings across the formats this summer he has scored four centuries along with efforts of 99 and 75.
Did the same reasons that precluded Rickelton from going to Australia keep him out of the England ODIs? “Not at all,” Victor Mpitsang, South Africa’s selection convenor, told a press conference on Wednesday. “Ryan has been performing very well. It’s about where he fits in. He’s an opening batsman, and unfortunately in a squad of 16 we just couldn’t get him in. But I’m sure his opportunity will come.” Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Janneman Malan and Temba Bavuma are the other options in the squad to open the batting.
Mpitsang said the selectors had consulted the medics, who had “made it clear to us that, at home, the risk is not as high as when he travels abroad with his injury”. The policy against picking injured players would seem equally optional.
Brevis scored an unbeaten 70 at a strike rate of 170.73 to lead MI Cape Town to victory over Paarl Royals in the SA20 opener at Newlands last Tuesday. At 19 he has already played in the IPL and the CPL, and is the focus of an intensifying conversation in South African cricket about the importance of ensuring the next generation of cricketers knows they are valued by the national structures. Otherwise they might as well become T20 league mercenaries, earning exponentially more money and having to put up with exponentially less stress.
Were the selectors telling Brevis they weren’t interested in him? “We’re not trying to chase him away at all,” Mpitsang said. “We’ll try and introduce him against West Indies with the different formats, especially T20.”
West Indies will play two Tests, three ODIs and as many T20Is in South Africa from February 28 to March 28. With a bit of luck, Brevis won’t have moved on by then.