Faf du Plessis has made it known that he wants back into the Proteas set-up for the World Cup in India and he might just be the missing piece of the team’s batting puzzle.
It is easy to see where du Plessis slots into this Proteas top order right now. Du Plessis might just be the best player available to come in at first drop in the pressure cooker of the World Cup.
The Proteas could well employ a policy of picking three right-handers and three left-handers to staff their top six.
It makes sense to have Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma continue their fruitful opening partnership in the ODI format.
Currently, the team’s real weak spot is what happens when Bavuma is dismissed.
The Proteas have some very good options to fill the number three and four roles in the form of Aiden Markram and Reeza Hendricks.
Hendricks and Markram might both prefer to open the batting, though, which gives du Plessis an edge over them.
Markram would be a tough player to leave out, given his great form at home and ever-improving bowling, but questions remain about his ability to deliver in ODI cricket under pressure.
The core and contenders
Another name deserving of mention is Janneman Malan, who tore up the format not so long ago, but has struggled for game time more recently and might not make the World Cup squad at all.
Ideally, the Proteas will want to use their three standout left-handers – de Kock, Rilee Rossouw and David Miller – as much as possible, but among the right-handers the places don’t seem to be set in stone.
Tony de Zorzi and Ryan Rickleton are evidently next in line.
Heinrich Klaasen should be the Proteas’ number five, as underlined by his batting against the West Indies recently.
Rassie van der Dussen is the player that would probably have to make way for du Plessis.
The Proteas will have few opportunities to test out new combinations before the World Cup, unless they are forced into the qualifying tournament by Ireland.
Du Plessis might just be the surprise pick that gets the Proteas in the frame for 2023 World Cup glory.
His experience and excellent white-ball form, coupled with renowned tenacity, would make him a banker for this national side.