After months of speculation around his form and place in the ODI side, Hashim Amla has been included in South Africa's 15-person squad for the World Cup in England and Wales. Amla's inclusion, along with Aiden Markram, means that top-order batsman Reeza Hendricks missed out on selection for the tournament.
With South Africa opting for Amla's experience, and Markram's imposing domestic form, there were no major surprises when the squad was announced on Thursday afternoon.
"We're looking for players who are prepared to die on the field for their country," Cricket South Africa president Chris Nenzani said. "We're looking for quality. We're looking for integrity. And we're looking for players who are prepared to entertain the country."
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As expected, Faf du Plessis will captain the side that includes only one specialist wicketkeeper in Quinton de Kock, with David Miller available for back-up should de Kock be injured during a game. Miller was trialled in the role during Sri Lanka's visit earlier this year.
"Everyone has been on our case for not having a back-up keeper, but as a panel we felt it was important, when looking at the batting and bowling we have, some of the keepers we've been looking at, their performances weren't quite there in terms of looking at our bowling back up and the batters we currently we have," National Selection Panel Convener Linda Zondi said. "Hence we went with David Miller. In the Sri Lanka series we gave him the gloves to make sure that if anything happens to Quinton de Kock within the World Cup, Miller can fit in and play that role." There was no place in the squad for allrounder Chris Morris, who is currently playing for the Delhi Capitals in the IPL, and who is one of several South Africa players taking part in the league, with Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir currently topping the wicket charts there.
Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje, who would also have been at the IPL were it not for late-season injuries, have been included in the squad. Zondi explained that both were on the mend, and are expected to be fit to join South Africa's pre-tournament camp on May 12.
CSA confirmed that if any of the South Africa players featuring in the IPL should be required to play in the league final on May 12, they will be available and will join the national squad immediately afterwards. "The plan is for guys who make the final to join us on the 13th," a CSA official said.
Five of the players - du Plessis, Amla, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir and Dale Steyn - made their World Cup debuts at the tournament in the sub-continent in 2011 and will be playing in their third World Cup. De Kock and David Miller made their debuts in the 2015 tournament in Australasia and will be going to the World Cup for the second time.
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"We feel that Faf's team is well equipped to handle whatever
conditions are presented to them, bearing in mind the weather extremes one can encounter in the British Isles," Zondi said. "We have also been highly encouraged by the form shown by those of our players who are currently in action in the Indian Premier League and there is no doubt that there is a great sense of anticipation and determination among our players.
"When CSA appointed Ottis Gibson, he came with his own philosophy. Part of that was playing confident cricket. For years as South Africa we were playing conservative cricket. It was important for us as a panel to make sure that you can then take a team where everyone from [No.] 1 to 6 is going to play confident and attacking cricket. We're confident, looking at his philosophy and the kind of players we've picked. They are winners in their own right.
"I am also very happy to announce that two of our fast bowlers currently on the injured list, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje, are well on the way to recovery and we expect them to be ready for our pre-tournament camp next month".
Squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), JP Duminy, David Miller, Dale Steyn, Andile Phehlukwayo, Imran Tahir, Kagiso Rabada, Dwaine Pretorius, Quinton de Kock (wk), Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, Hashim Amla, Tabraiz Shamsi