Hamza hits the headlines, but where’s Heinrich?
The omission of Heinrich Klaasen, the closest thing SA have to a poor man’s De Villiers, from the SA squad is a pity
It says something about a cricket culture in which the fuss is always about the latest fast-bowling kid on the block that a batter can grab a headline.
Zubayr Hamza is that batter.
The Cobras’ 23-year-old No 3, who is blessed with discipline, talent and barbershop looks, was named on Thursday in SA’s squad to play three Tests against Pakistan, the first in Centurion on December 26.
It will not escape notice that Hamza could make his debut at the home ground of the player he could replace in the Test XI: the retired AB de Villiers.
Neither will it pass without comment that Hamza’s best efforts in 10 first-class innings this season are a pair of half-centuries.
The first of those facts is heavy with unfairness. There is no getting away from the truth that De Villiers is an undeniably great player, and that comparing others to him is a pointless exercise. The man has retired. Move on.
Hamza’s recent performance is a better focus. Nineteen players have scored more runs in the first-class competition this summer, and only one of them – Theunis de Bruyn – is also in the squad.
But a third of the players who have more runs than Hamza also have one more innings.
And the racially fuelled reactionaries can calm down: A third of the top 19 are, like Hamza, not white. As is Rudi Second, the leading run scorer in South Africa A’s four-day series in India in August. Hamza was 79 runs behind.
We don’t have enough words at our disposal to pick apart where particular players were on the pecking order when they first cracked the nod.
Besides, teams are picked not by algorithms but by human beings like selection convenor Linda Zondi.
“Zubayr has been one of the standout cricketers in domestic cricket over the past year and carried that form into the South Africa A tour to India, where he averaged over 50 in the four-day series against tough opposition and under tough conditions,” Zondi was quoted as saying in a Cricket South Africa release on Thursday.
“Before that, he had an outstanding season in the four-day franchise competition where he scored 823 runs, including three centuries, at the impressive average of 69.
“His selection is part of our vision for the future as we start to feed new players into the system. It is inevitable that some of our senior players will start thinking of retiring in years to come and it is vital that we have a good succession plan in place.”
That Hamza could become SA’s 100th Test player since readmission is fatuous nonsense that should be discouraged.
What would celebrating the fact tell all the other players, of all races, who played for teams they called SA in the bad old days? That they are not part of their country’s cricket history? No amount of branding bullshit can erase their existence.
Zondi didn’t have to explain why De Villiers and fellow retiree Morné Morkel weren’t among the 13 named on Thursday, neither in the cases of Lungi Ngidi and Wiaan Mulder, who are injured.
But the omission of Heinrich Klaasen, the closest thing SA have to a poor man’s De Villiers, is a pity, as is Chris Morris’s absence.
Both were in the squad for SA’s previous two home Tests, which ended last summer’s stormy series against Australia.
Maybe Zondi is keeping them fresh for that other engagement; the one in England next year, when the ball will be white, the kit won’t, and at stake will be the World Cup.