SA must handle Kleinveldt like Philander
A year later and fickle South African fans, quick to question the selection of Vernon Philander, are still eating their words. A tough bunch to please, Proteas supporters will be quick to criticise the arrival of Rory Kleinveldt too.
A year later and fickle South African fans, quick to question the selection of Vernon Philander, are still eating their words after a prolific emergence of the man who cleaned up Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and England. A tough bunch to please, Proteas supporters will be quick to criticise the arrival of Rory Kleinveldt too.
Again, as was the case with Philander, their disapproval will be based on little more than a general inability to forgive the past, appreciate the present – and understand that the country's first-class scene is the breeding ground for the national fold after all.
This is no longer the overweight, dope-smoking, immature Kleinveldt of yesteryear, when a shotgun stint in the T20I fold promptly proved he wasn't cut out for the big stage. Under the watchful eye of former coach Richard Pybus last season, and new coach Paul Adams this year, he has drawn closer to becoming the complete package.
Second only to Philander in the SuperSport Series' wicket-taking ranks in 2011-2012, Kleinveldt's 2012-2013 campaign is shaping up for similar plaudits. Afforded the short-term captaincy in the absence Justin Ontong, the 29-year-old fared a level head, thumping the Lions and drawing with the Knights.
Adams' choice to elevate a player, who in the public's eye epitomised the mere rank and file, to the helm was a masterstroke – and was arguably the final factor that convinced the national selectors of his worth. This year's 'A' series against Sri Lanka and Ireland also spoke volumes of his newfound favour.
Kleinveldt surely wouldn't have been selected for the tour of Australia had Marchant de Lange been fit, but for now has at least usurped Lonwabo Tsotsobe as the back-up option. Kleinveldt certainly brings more pace and bounce to the party than Tsotsobe, whose general lack of speed always had his days numbered at Test level.
How he is used Down Under, though, needs to be a stark contrast to Tsotsobe's role as a passenger for the past year. Convener of selectors Andrew Hudson's acknowledgement that Kleinveldt will be a "valuable option, particularly at Brisbane and Perth" is promising.
The planet's top-ranked Test side are not going to stay there if they run their first-choice fast bowlers into the ground. Just ask England. Affording the rookie game time alongside Philander, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in the third Test wouldn't be untoward – especially if the series has already been wrapped up.
How he will factor into the final XI, though, is a conundrum, and will truly bring to the test his status as an all-rounder if a Jacques Rudolph or JP Duminy has to make way.
Picking Philander for the first Test against Australia last year was largely viewed as presumptuous on the brains trust's part, but look how that turned out.
There is similar example to be taken in the handling of Kleinveldt, whose second coming – in Australia this year and perhaps against New Zealand and Pakistan next year – might well be last-chance saloon too. Andrew Birch, Chris Morris, Kyle Abbott and the like can only be held in the wings for so long…
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