Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

Imagine Quinny and Heinrich in the middle

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IN LATE 2008, David Warner wasn’t the household name he is in world cricket these days. In fact, he was likely watching the historic South African defeat of the Aussie Test side with just as much anguish as the rest of the nation, before getting his maiden call-up for the T20 Internatio­nal squad for that summer.

He was introduced to the internatio­nal audience in that T20 series, as he belted a quickfire half-century, spanking the hitherto destructiv­e Dale Steyn for some frightful sixes along the way. There he suddenly was, this tightly coiled nugget of batting promise, bristling with total commitment at every ball he faced.

The Aussie selectors didn’t wait; they pounced on early promise, and chucked him into the ODI squad as well, opting for form over the favoured route of protocol. It was Warner’s moment, and they allowed it to continue beyond just the T20 hit and giggle stuff.

It is fair to say their hunch paid off – and then some. Warner has become an integral member of the Australian team in all formats, a leader on and off the field. He has repaid the faith shown in him with a decade of sterling service. Not everyone will remember the selectors who settled on giving him an early chance, but everyone certainly knows who David Warner is now.

He injected energy into the Aussie side, entrenchin­g himself as a pocket-rocket version of the bulldozing Matthew Hayden.

Australia had found the next man to play the enforcer at the top of the order, frightenin­g uncertain new-ball practition­ers with his immediate intent.

South Africa’s selectors find themselves at a similar fork in the road now, after the startling emergence of Heinrich Klaasen in the limited-overs component of the Indian visit.

No one expected Klaasen to even be a factor, because Quinton de Kock had seemingly shut the door for the current crop of keeper/batsmen in this country. Klaasen plays with De Kock at domestic level, so he himself knows the rare gifts that De Kock possesses in his mitts.

“He is a quality player, and he is missed in our changeroom. He definitely has nothing to worry about,” Klaasen said when asked if De Kock’s restful period in Knysna had opened the door to complicati­on.

Indeed, Klaasen even went as far as saying that he would understand if Saturday’s T20 decider against India was his last match for his country. Of course, those who have observed him at close quarters know that he is worth infinitely more than a few caretaker caps. They also know that he wants a lot more than such meagre crumbs, too.

Klaasen has that positive body language that marked out Warner immediatel­y, way back when. He has that knack to press play as soon as he gets to the crease, his instincts capable of taking games by the scruff of the neck. That instinctiv­e fire ought to be maximised while it is at its searing best, because cricket has taught us that individual flames flicker and falter suddenly, and violently.

At this very moment, Klaasen may well be the most confident cricketer in South Africa. See ball, destroy ball has been his mantra for this month, and it is that brutal efficiency that knocks teams like Australia off their strut.

There will be those who say the white ball, on a flat deck, is a world away from a swinging red ball, but those are the same type of people who would never dare to eat their morning muesli with full-cream milk, because the low-fat version has run out. They would also have probably pigeonhole­d 2008 David Warner as a single-format player because, you know, he is just a slugger.

Imagine, for a moment, De Kock and Klaasen combining in a middle-order assault on the second new ball in a Test match. Just imagine it.

Tantalisin­g prospect, isn’t

it?

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