McLaren backed for highest honour
South Africa are taking no chances over the fitness of Jacques Kallis, and coach Mickey Arthur was quick to endorse the talents of the four uncapped players who could feature in his absence in the opening Test.
Kallis was today named in South Africa’s 15-man squad for the first of four Tests against England in Centurion, despite missing the entire limited-overs engagements due to a broken rib.
Former Kent all-rounder Ryan McLaren is one of a clutch of possibles required to cover all bases, in case Kallis does not recover sufficiently in time for December 16.
South Africa’s selectors also named specialist batsman Alviro Petersen and fast bowlers Friedel de Wet and Wayne Parnell - another formerly of Kent - as prospective debutants.
Arthur said: “We’ve spent the last month or so having a look at potential all-rounders - the one area we felt we were a little bit light on - and Ryan was the one guy that fitted the bill.
“We need a bowler to be able to really come on and do a holding job - and we think Ryan could do that.”
Should Kallis be fit, South Africa can revert to plan A - with an all-time great who balances their team so well.
“You don’t replace him every day of the week, with 10,000 Test runs and (approaching) 300 wickets,” Arthur spelled out.
“But obviously we’ve got Jacques’ injury, so we’ve gone for some cover in terms of giving ourselves options.
“Not having him, you would have the dilemma of whether you went with five batters and an all-rounder or still with the six batters.
“We’re having a look at making sure we’ve got every option. But he’s on track; he’s making good progress; we’re still hoping he’ll be fine.”
South Africa are confident that leading fast bowler Dale Steyn will also be fit in time for the Test series, following a minor hamstring strain.
Arthur today repeated Steyn’s readiness for Centurion will not be unduly risked in Friday’s final one-day match of a series in which South Africa trail England 2-1.
South Africa’s squad will gather five days before the start of the Test for a pre-series camp at Potchefstroom.