Simon Harmer has earned his recall to the Proteas’ Test squad and the national team set-up must make use of his enhanced skillset.
Harmer hasn’t played Test cricket in seven years, but in the intervening time he has improved as a bowler.
The off-spinner is the second-highest wicket-taker in the ongoing first-class season in South Africa, including taking two five-wicket innings hauls and one 10-wicket match haul.
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Only Duanne Olivier has taken more wickets than Harmer on the first-class circuit this season. With Olivier already recalled to the squad, it was always likely Harmer would be next.
Only sentiment could prove an impediment to Harmer’s return, considering his outspoken criticism of how the game is run in South Africa while he was plying his trade with Essex.
South Africa cannot afford to be led by feelings when it comes to Harmer, who may be a veteran, but at 32 years old, is far from over the hill.
Harmer has taken bags of wickets in county cricket, which isn’t exactly a spin-friendly setting and could prove a handy addition in New Zealand which sports similar conditions.
In England, Harmer’s performances have been crying out for international cricket.
While some remain unimpressed by the numbers he has put up while overseas, there is no question that Harmer has improved and he must be considered the best off-spinner currently available to the Proteas.
Whether Harmer plays in New Zealand, ahead of Keshav Maharaj is a question that remains to be answered.
Maharaj has been an asset to the Proteas well beyond his stats, and his recent barren run doesn’t diminish his importance to this team.
A direct comparison between the players is a close run thing. The factor that could swing things in his favour might be Harmer’s batting, but even there we are splitting hairs.
Both men have two first-class tons to their name, and neither has shown their best batting quality in recent matches.
Harmer has looked great on the domestic scene, twice taking first-innings five-wicket hauls this season, showing he is able to take the surface out of the equation to some extent.
The decision to recall Harmer might just be an inspired move that helps this Proteas team take things up a notch.