Imran Tahir, South Africa’s top-ranked ODI bowler at No.6 in the world, has been rested from the ODI squad to play Sri Lanka in July-August as the country gears up for Vision 2019. Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, who has played two ODIs, and left-arm wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi have been included in the 15-man squad in Tahir’s place.
The series, which will consist of five ODIs and a one-off T20I, is the first of five in South Africa’s build-up to the 2019 World Cup, and the first since AB de Villiers announced his international retirement. The uncapped Reeza Hendricks, wicketkeeper-batsman Heinrich Klaasen and Aiden Markram are the three players in contention for de Villiers’ middle-order spot.
Faf du Plessis returns as captain, after missing five of the six ODIs against India earlier in the year with a broken finger, and Junior Dala, who has played three T20s, comes in as an option in place of the retired Morne Morkel. Wiaan Mulder is the only other addition from the group that played against India, and replaces Chris Morris, who is recovering from a back injury sustained during the IPL. Morris is only expected to be fit for the South African home summer, which starts against Zimbabwe in late September.
The decision to rest Tahir is surprising, given that the legspinner has not featured for South Africa since February and has only had game time in the PSL and IPL since then. He will next play for Guyana Amazon Warriors in the CPL, which takes place from August 8 until September 16, and clashes with the fourth and fifth ODIs in Sri Lanka and the one-off T20I. But Tahir is not the only South African player taking part in that tournament with Hashim Amla, David Miller and Junior Dala also involved, so that is not the reason for his omission.
Instead, South Africa’s convener of selectors Linda Zondi explained that leaving Tahir out had less to do with him and more to do with the other spinners in contention for the World Cup squad, and confirmed Tahir is still set to be premier player in that department. “We have taken the strategic decision to rest Imran Tahir so that we can get a clearer picture as to who our best second spinner is to back him up at the World Cup. Imran will be our first- choice spinner at the World Cup but, if we play him against Sri Lanka, it is unlikely that we will be able to play both Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj,” Zondi said. “By taking this route, we will be able to play the two of them together.”