Big Vern’s fit­ness un­der a mi­cro­scope

Pretoria News - - SPORT -


VERNON Phi­lan­der’s fit­ness is un­der the spot­light again.

Af­ter re­cently com­ing in for se­vere crit­i­cism from his for­mer Proteas cap­tain Graeme Smith and his cur­rent skip­per Faf du Plessis also chal­leng­ing Phi­lan­der, urg­ing him to fo­cus on his fit­ness, there are once again con­cerns.

It was ini­tially un­der­stood that all the Proteas would be avail­able for the first round of Sun­foil Se­ries fix­tures, start­ing on Tues­day, in prepa­ra­tion for the up­com­ing se­ries against Bangladesh.

The Proteas have not had any cricket for the past month since the con­clu­sion of the Eng­land tour, with Phi­lan­der be­ing on an even longer break due to not play­ing the fourth and fi­nal Test due to a back prob­lem.

The 32-year-old seamer had also strug­gled with a come­back from an an­kle in­jury and a vi­ral ail­ment in the first and third Tests in Eng­land re­spec­tively.

He was ac­tu­ally hos­pi­talised overnight and placed on a drip dur­ing the third Test at Old Traf­ford.

All those prob­lems were be­lieved to be in the past though with the Co­bras re­leas­ing a state­ment last week that Phi­lan­der could fea­ture on their pre-sea­son trip to Oudt­shoorn – al­beit only as a bats­man pend­ing dis­cus­sions with the na­tional team man­age­ment.

Phi­lan­der, though, did not play in ei­ther of the two two-day warm-up matches against the War­riors and will now also not fea­ture against the Knights at the Man­gaung Oval next week.

“Vern is not avail­able for our first game in Bloemfontein,” Co­bras coach Ash­well Prince con­firmed to In­de­pen­dent Me­dia. “It is frus­trat­ing be­cause we are not in con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion when it comes to na­tional play­ers.

“We ad­here to Cricket South Africa’s guide­lines and we have been in­formed that a call will only be made on the 25th (of Septem­ber).”

This sit­u­a­tion places Phi­lan­der in se­ri­ous doubt to fea­ture in new Proteas coach Ot­tis Gib­son’s first match in charge of the na­tional team, which is the first Test against the Tigers start­ing on Septem­ber 28 in Potchef­stroom.

Gib­son will in all like­li­hood be with­out Dale Steyn too at Sen­wes Park af­ter the fast bowler con­firmed his un­avail­abil­ity yes­ter­day.

Steyn was op­ti­mistic ear­lier this month of a re­turn to com­pet­i­tive cricket af­ter a 12-month lay­off due to a shoul­der in­jury, but has now de­cided that his body is not yet ready to re­turn to the rigours of first-class cricket.

“I’ve de­cided not to play right now.

“I’m bowl­ing fine but I haven’t hit the full work­load I’d need to han­dle four-day cricket or a Test so I de­cided it was best not to play,” Steyn told ESPNcricinfo yes­ter­day.

“Play­ing the four-day game would have given me a chance for se­lec­tion in the Tests but I don’t want to put my­self or the team in a po­si­tion where I pull up again.

“Some shorter cricket might be the bet­ter an­swer for a rein­tro­duc­tion.”

Gib­son is set to ar­rive in the coun­try on Mon­day and will at least be able to see Temba Bavuma, Wayne Par­nell and Hashim Amla, who has been play­ing T20 cricket for the World XI in Pak­istan, in ac­tion for the Co­bras next week.

Na­tional con­venor of se­lec­tors Linda Zondi is ex­pected to an­nounce the squad for the Test se­ries against Bangladesh af­ter the com­ple­tion of the first round of Sun­foil Se­ries fix­tures next week.

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