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Proteas coach Conrad follows his judgment as Rickelton snubbed again

Stuart Hess Sports reporter
David Bedingham was called up to the Proteas after an excellent season for Durham in division two of the County Championship
David Bedingham was called up to the Proteas after an excellent season for Durham in division two of the County Championship
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

“Ultimately,” said Shukri Conrad, “the buck stops with me.” 

He was explaining some of his selections in the Proteas Test squad for the series against India that starts on Boxing Day. While the bowling unit picks itself, it's the batting where some contentious calls were made, most notably, again, the exclusion of Ryan Rickelton. 

Eight months ago, Conrad spoke highly of the 27-year-old left-hander, despite Rickelton not doing enough in the second Test against the West Indies at the Wanderers.

“He will be a big part of the side, he will be one of those guys who, through performances domestically, [and] knowing his character, is someone we will start building the Test side around,” Conrad said in March. 

Time has changed that perspective.

“Eight months is a long time,” Conrad remarked on Monday after naming his 15-man squad. In that period Tristan Stubbs and David Bedingham forced a change in the coach’s thinking. 

Bedingham had revealed he was happy to do an about-turn on his ambitions of chasing an England cap and had an outstanding season for Durham, helping them win the County Championship second division title. 

“To not have someone of Bedders' quality in the squad, we’d have missed a trick. His performances domestically and for Durham have been phenomenal. He’s banged the door down,” Conrad said. 

Bedingham scored more than 1,000 runs at an average of 56.61, making five centuries. Having always been a favourite of Conrad from the time the two worked together when Conrad coached Western Province, once Bedingham’s form matched his renewed desire for Proteas recognition it was always going to be hard for Conrad to ignore him. 

I have to choose someone and as it stands now I chose Bedingham and Stubbs ahead of Rickelton
Shukri Conrad

Stubbs is a slightly different matter. Having made an impression as a limited overs basher, earning a call up to the T20 World Cup last year, he meticulously worked on his first class game, having made earning a Test cap a goal. 

On a South Africa A tour to Sri Lanka in July, with Conrad also preparing that unit, Stubbs made an impression.

“He showed so much in that Sri Lanka tour and then since coming back [to South Africa].”

Stubbs scored a century in the second four-day “test” on that tour, an innings in which he batted for nearly a whole day. That he didn’t see out the day was a source of great regret for the 23-year-old but his character and technique were enough for Conrad to pick him for the India Test series. 

His 100 for the Warriors last weekend, in their defeat of a Lions team featuring Rickelton, was likely to have confirmed his selection, but it is still one Conrad recognises is risky. 

“I have to make a call and when I do so it might not be in line with what I said eight months ago. But things change and I have to choose someone and as it stands now I chose Bedingham and Stubbs ahead of Rickelton.”

That it is his choice is an important part of the clarity that now exists for players in selection. When Conrad and Rob Walter were appointed earlier this year, director of cricket Enoch Nkwe made them responsible for selection of squads and the playing 11. 

The absence of selection committees meant there was no room for anyone to hide and if players wanted to know why they were dropped or what they had to do to get picked, they knew who to call. 

“I welcome it with open arms. I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Conrad said.

Still, he consults a variety of local experts, including Central Gauteng Lions coach Russell Domingo, his assistant Hashim Amla and his own Proteas assistants, Ashwell Prince (the new batting coach) and Kruger van Wyk.

“They are quality people who have performed at international level, on the playing field and in the coaching space, but, ultimately this is what I have come up with, not them.”

Proteas Test squad against India

Temba Bavuma (capt), David Bedingham, Nandre Burger, Gerald Coetzee, Tony de Zorzi, Dean Elgar, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Keegan Petersen, Kagiso Rabada, Tristan Stubbs, Kyle Verreynne.

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