It is a shame that someone like AB De Villiers is missing, but I cannot agree with anyone who suggests this is a bad thing for Test cricket in general.
The thing that gets me about these great players and people knocking them – these are guys who have played over 100 Test matches, it is not like they have played 20 or 30 times and thought that’s it I am going looking for the money, but they have done their job, served their country and sometimes there is more to life than this.
Sometimes you enjoy cricket more by playing less and so I don’t have any qualms with what they are doing. De Villiers has nothing to prove and the same as someone like Brendon McCullum in recent times – they are now playing for enjoyment. International cricket on tour can be a very lonely place and a hard grind and sometimes they will think there is more to life, and I don’t knock anyone of them, who have played for a long as that as they have earned that right.
So onto the series, let’s look at South Africa.
They are rebuilding a bit – but they are a good team, they have got Dean Elgar leading them for the first with Faf Du Plessis missing due to the birth of his first child, and they have got some good players, very good players. I
In Kagiso Rabada, they probably have a bowler as good as any in the world at the moment. I think this will be a very good summer for England – they will blow Windies away and maybe South Africa too.
England should be beating South Africa on home soil, no matter what team they put out and if they had all their big names available.
I would, and do, back England to win this on home soil.
With England, the main talking point has been the recall of Gary Ballance.
My take on this is that Ballance is playing the best cricket in the country at the moment and is being picked completely on merit, he is scoring a lot of runs and it is the right time to pick him.
The last time they picked him I don’t think was the right time – he got picked for overseas and I think at the time, there was an issue that we didn’t have many batsmen at the time standing up to be picked, but I know Gary – I have played in the same team and he is a very good player, you don’t average over 40 by a fluke.
Yes in India he got found out a bit, but every batsmen in the world no matter who it is – Kolhi, Williamson, Root, Smith – the four best batmen in the world, all have weaknesses and good bowlers can find them and that is what happened to Balance last time – but he has now gone away, scored runs and done what has been asked of him. I
I think Joe Root as captain has had a little impact on picking Ballance, but not much as it is completely on merit. He will be fine, he has shown he can play at international level before and he will do it again. He can score, not just hundreds but big hundreds. But the big thing for him is that he gets in and stays in and gets comfortable wearing the England shirt and if he does that I think he will score runs.
The rest of the team, there has been a lot being made of young Haseeb Hameed and not being selected but you have to realise how young he is, there is talk of him being dropped and not being picked but we are so quick in this country to judge – this was a big bugbear when I played – we are so quick to write players off – it happened to Ballance and Jonny Bairstow in this team now, they have shown in periods out the side that can make it back, bigger and stronger.
Hameed has struggled for runs a little but his time will come – he will have been told to go away and score runs and that will come. Now is the time for Keaton Jennings to open, he has scored runs in his international clash and others have done well too – Mark Stoneman has scored well and done very well of late, but I think the squad was already chosen but Keaton will do well, I have no doubt about that.