Proteas in a flat spin over nothing
Here is a dilemma many a South African sports fan thought they’d never have to face: “Which spinner do we use against Australia?”
That’s right, instead of asking the more expected: “Oh god, when and where will we ever find a spinner?”
For the first time in as long as I can remember we have two viable options—and, I have to be honest, deciding who to use won’t be easy.
The Proteas head into the Test match leg of the tour smarting from a loss in the one-day international series on the back of a mediocre showing in the two T20 internationals that preceded it.
So, with nothing less than victory on the minds of the team and fans alike—as well as new coach Gary Kirsten’s determination to show he can translate his Indian success story into its South Africa equivalent—the stakes will be very high indeed.
So, who do you send to bowl the Australians over—the attacking Imran Tahir, or the holding Paul Harris?
While you’d think Tahir is the obvious choice based on his showing at the world cup earlier this year, his lack of experience in the Test arena leaves many a pundit unconvinced.
Then again, while Harris has the luxury of 37 tests behind his name, his tally of 103 wickets in those matches at an average of over 37 doesn’t inspire the confidence you want in a bowler expected to bowl an opposition out on the fifth day.
So, who do you select?
Before you move from your fingernails and start chewing at your elbow, consider this apparent problem as a blessing in disguise.
Many decades have passed since the South African cricket side harboured any quality spinner in its bowling arsenal.
Not since Fifties-era spin supremo Hugh Tayfield have we had a true spin bowler who can strike fear into the bowels of our opposition.
The prowess of Pat Symcox, Tim Shaw, Clive Eksteen, Dave Rundle and Paul Adams can be described as “competent” at best or, more realistically, “shoddy”.
Nowadays, I would argue that in Tahir we have that option of all-out attack elegantly coupled with the containing role that Harris plays, which will combine into that which we have been salivating for and dreaming of for so long.
My assessment leaves me thinking the pair should be given a go in the first test—especially with it being played at Newlands—arguably one of the most spin-friendly tracks in the country.
Which player to pick to take for the final Test at the Wanderers and thereafter is anybody’s guess—and it won’t be an easy one.
I’m relieved the choice isn’t up to me—but it’s possibly the best difficult decision a Proteas selector will ever have to make.
Oh, and by the way
I will quietly forget the fact that neither of our spin twins is actually South African.
With Harris born in Zimbabwe and Tahir from Pakistan, many a couch commentator has already pointed out that South Africa STILL hasn’t produced a world-class spinner.
At the end of the day though: Who cares where they come?
Certainly what’s good enough for the All Blacks and Wallabies rugby teams in terms of importing talent to their ranks can be acceptable for the Proteas?. .