Cricket in the time of Covid has earned Heinrich Klaasen a crack at international captaincy. The wicketkeeper-batter will lead South Africa in their T20I series in Pakistan next month. But it will not be his first time at the helm of a representative team.
Klaasen has captained the Titans, his franchise, 21 times across all the formats. He also led the Spartans in the 2019 edition of the MSL. Even so, his elevation has been forced by regulations meant to stop the spread of the virus – and by the fact that South Africa’s Test squad is already in Pakistan, where they start a Test series next Tuesday.
“The strategy forms part of the measures put in place by CSA to ensure that the Test squad, captained by Quinton de Kock, can return to South Africa and satisfy the overseas travel Covid-19 quarantine protocol ahead of that team’s… three-match against Australia [which is expected to start in March],” a CSA release on Tuesday said.
The T20 squad of 18 includes 14 of the 24 who were beaten 3-0 by England in this format in November and December, but only four players who are in the current Test squad: George Linde, Dwaine Pretorius, Tabraiz Shamsi and Lutho Sipamla. Fast bowlers Nandre Burger, Okuhle Cele and Glenton Stuurman, wicketkeeper-batter Ryan Rickleton and off-spinner Jacques Snyman are the uncapped players selected. Stuurman has recovered from the quadriceps strain that took him out of the squad picked for the Test series against Sri Lanka in December and January.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has compelled sporting bodies to find innovative ways of ensuring tours and sporting events take place as planned or with as little disruption to revised plans as possible,” the release quoted Graeme Smith, CSA’s director of cricket, as saying. “We are not exempt from that, and have had to do a bit of outside-of-the-box thinking to ensure that we are fully prepared for a home Test tour against Australia, while having an exciting T20 series to compete in, in Pakistan. We’re in the final stages of concluding plans for how the coaching and support staff will also be managed for the two tours. It’s an example of the measures that some cricket nations will have to put in place to ensure that they can squeeze more than one tour in a period of three or four months, while fulfilling Covid-19 protocol obligations.”
The squad has 219 caps worth of T20I experience. But 78 of those belong to David Miller, who must have been a contender for the captaincy. No-one else selected has played more than 27 T20Is.
“We are excited to see what these youngsters will do under what won’t be the easiest of conditions,” the release quoted selection convenor Victor Mpitsang as saying. “But… we… are looking forward to seeing the more experienced players step up as leaders and take ownership of the team.”
In addition to Miller that would be Reeza Hendricks, Andile Phehlukwayo and Shamsi – the only members of the squad who have played more than 20 T20Is.
The series will be played in Lahore on February 11, 13 and 14.
South Africa T20 squad:
Heinrich Klaasen (c), Nandre Burger, Okuhle Cele, Junior Dala, Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, George Linde, Janneman Malan, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Ryan Rickleton, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lutho Sipamla, Jon-Jon Smuts, Pite van Biljon, Glenton Stuurman, Jacques Snyman.