Theunis de Bruyn deserves to replace the retired JP Duminy at No 4 for the Proteas in their Test series against Bangladesh, writes Khalid Mohidin.
After Duminy’s announcement on Saturday that he would hang up his whites with immediate effect, one of new Proteas coach Ottis Gibson’s first tasks will be to find a replacement No 4 Test batsman.
Not since the days of Daryll Cullinan and Jacques Kallis have the Proteas had a No 4 who dominated in the position.
AB de Villiers seemed up for the challenge before injury struck, and then he announced he would step away from the longest format.
By August 2016, Duminy was South Africa’s new No 4, but he was quickly exposed. He scored at an average of 34 in 12 matches, with just two centuries and two half-centuries. While the Proteas rose up the rankings, he continued to produce inconsistent performances.
After scoring 155 against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers in January, he made scores of 1, 39, 16, 15*, 20, 13, 15 and 2 – The last two came in the first Test against England at Lord’s, and Duminy was axed after the Proteas’ 211-run defeat to England.
It was similar to when Duminy announced his arrival on the Test stage with a brilliant 166 against Australia at the MCG. It would take him another 18 innings to reach three figures again.
Whether Duminy’s Test career should have lasted as long as it did, is a debate for another day, but his eventual retirement has given the Proteas a selection headache.
The selectors’ blueprint in the past has been to pick an experienced batsman at No 4, but it seems that De Bruyn will be the player to fill the void when South Africa face Bangladesh in the first Test starting on 28 September.
Although he averages 12.00, having batting at No 2, 6 and 7 for the Proteas in his three matches, the 24-year-old Knights captain deserves a consistent run in his preferred position, based on his Sunfoil Series record last season. De Bruyn ended third top-scorer in the series as his side won the tournament, scoring at 57.76, which included two centuries and four half-centuries.
There are, however, other experimental options available. Based purely on domestic performances in the 2016-17 Sunfoil Series, the names who stand out are Rudi Second (Knights), Dominic Hendricks (Lions), Jason Smith (Cobras) and Khaya Zondo (Dolphins).
But having already been capped, it is likely that De Bruyn will hold the fort until De Villiers returns for the India Test series.
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