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The big selection debate: Faf or AB as captain?

A lively debate is likely to arise when the national selectors look at the Proteas captaincy scenario ahead of the home series against Sri Lanka next month.

Faf and AB
Photo: Getty Images

The national cricket selectors are faced with a potential headache after the current Proteas Test tour in Australia.

 

Nobody saw this coming did they?

 

Who would have predicted an ODI whitewash over Australia on home soil, a convincing Test victory in Perth over the  same opponents and a series-clinching victory in less than four days in Hobart, even after a full day's play was washed out?

 

Following their comprehensive demolition of the Aussies in the 50-over format, the Proteas are now staring at the very real prospect of an unprecedented Test whitewash on Australian soil and a steady climb back up the Test rankings.

 

And all this without a permanent captain (AB De Villiers) and two of their most recognised fast bowlers in Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

 

Given the opportunity at top level, every player in the squad has put their hand up, with Kyle Abbott being a prime example. Abbott's nine wickets in the match, including a devastating return of 6/77 in the second innings, earned him the Man of the Match award.

 

Ludicrous as it may seem, official Test and ODI captain AB de Villiers is set to return to action in the home series against Sri Lanka next month, but may find himself fighting to regain his place in an in-form team.

 

Stand-in skipper Faf du Plessis has not only maintained a decent level of form with the bat and fielded out of his socks virtually anywhere on the park, but has also shown impeccable leadership pedigree, composure under pressure as well as exceptional man-management skills.

 

Although appointed temporarily in his school buddy De Villiers' absence, it is no secret that Faf wouldn't shy away if offered the role in a permanent capacity.

 

"I would. I've always said it. I love captaining. It's something I really enjoy doing," Du Plessis said at the post-match press conference on Tuesday.


"It's important to make sure that with all the stuff we talk about our culture, as a captain you live that and lead from the front. I am enjoying it at the moment. However long it continues, I will always do it."

 

De Villiers, on the other hand, has also not given any firm indication that he would prefer to focus on his own form and step down from the leadership role. But statistics don't lie and prior to his injury layoff, AB's personal form did take a marked dip.

 

Since Faf took the reins as stand-in captain, South Africa have won nine matches on the trot. So it's understandable that there is a heightened call for him to be retained as skipper.

 

But where does AB slot back in ?

 

The middle-order quartet of JP Duminy, Faf, Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma have all been on song in the current Aussie Test Series. Vernon Philander is also increasingly fitting the bill as a reliable all-rounder.

 

At the top of the order, Dean Elgar has also been in good nick, with Stephen Cook and Hashim Amla still playing bit parts.

 

So based on form and consistency, the middle order door would appear to be shut for now, but certainly not locked.

 

How can a selector even contemplate leaving a player out of a team who is still regarded as one of the best batsman in the world?

 

Add the fact that AB still boasts the fastest 50, 100 and 150 in ODI cricket, the fastest Test century by a South African and the fastest T20 International 50 by a South African (21 balls).

 

He also this year passed 8,000 runs in both Test and ODI cricket and still has a batting average of over fifty in both forms of the game.

 

Great pedigree yes, but just imagine for a minute if he were unshackled from the captaincy and allowed to focus solely on his game?

 

With an embarrassment of riches and a team that has found it's mojo again, I personally do not want to be in the shoes of Linda Zondi and the national selectors right now.

 

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