Sat, 23 Jan 2021

Proteas: The player who gets such mixed signals

26 Mar 2020, 04:10 GMT+10

Right now, Reeza Hendricks will probably just be relieved to have earned an ongoing national men's contract from Cricket South Africa.

The stylish top-order batsman first got full status in that regard for the just-finished season (2019/20) and was probably a little touch-and-go for retention in 2020/21 ... but the green light came his way when CSA unveiled their 16-strong men's list earlier this week.

Hendricks is among eight specialist batsmen to have been signed up, the others being (for either separate Test and white-ball uses or in some cases cross-format) Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen.

Unlucky to miss the cut among blade-wielders are the Malan brothers, Pieter and Janneman, Zubayr Hamza and particularly Heinrich Klaasen, who ended the season so forcefully by putting a huge personal stamp on the Proteas' welcome 3-0 one-day international series triumph over Australia to end a troubled campaign with a bang.

They should be among the players tussling for an extra contractual spot promised by CSA as next season gradually develops.

So there is a case for arguing that the 30-year-old Hendricks, a stalwart of the Lions franchise, is contrastingly fortune to have hung onto a deal.

Or is he, really?

A personal inclination remains to welcome his presence, given the often confusing, yo-yo status he has had to endure for a couple of years in SA team selection terms.

Even as the latest international season ended, Hendricks had found himself generally much more of a bib-wearing "additional squad member" than part of the Proteas side itself - and he hadn't even been part of the 16-strong party chosen to go to India for the supposed three-match ODI series that was abandoned (after one washout at Dharamsala) due to the coronavirus crisis.

The right-hander was given a single opportunity in the Twenty20 portion of the Aussie tour here, scoring 14 in an opening partnership of 60 with De Kock in South Africa's levelling victory in the second of three contests at St George's Park.

But that was the sum of his limited-overs activity against the old southern hemisphere foe.

Similarly Hendricks, while among the squad, did not get a single gig in the earlier, three-match T20 combat against England ... although, in fairness, De Kock and Temba Bavuma established a dynamic, consistent alliance at the very front of the order.

He does offer possibilities as a No 3 batsman, remember: it is the berth from which he struck his maiden ODI century on memorable debut against Sri Lanka at Pallekele in mid-2018, at well better than a run a ball and looking extremely accomplished in Subcontinent conditions.

From that dream beginning, it is true that Hendricks rather tapered off subsequently: his full ODI career at this point sees him holding 21 caps with a moderate 507 runs at an average of just under 27.

He did have some wretched luck a few weeks ago when, in the second ODI against England at Kingsmead, he had advanced to a promising, unbeaten 35 off 34 balls when the notorious heavens above Kingsmead opened to put paid to the match.

But his T20 international stats are better - 607 runs at 26.39 and some strong strike rates with many of his bigger scores - which may explain why he stayed in the 2020/21 contractual picture; he is presumably deemed a good candidate for a spot at the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia later in the year.

Still, it is difficult to escape a feeling that the SA brains trust - coaches and selectors alike - can't quite make up their minds about a player who looks so technically proficient and aesthetically pleasing when in fullest flow.

It is almost as if he takes guard every time, as a result, burdened by the thought that each innings could be his last, which can be a major impediment to productivity in the runs column.

Reeza Hendricks continues to walk a tightrope in Proteas-status terms.

The next few months - hopefully with international cricket mercifully back on the go by then - could be a critical tipping point, one way or the other, for him.

On and off appearances only for the Proteas?

That won't help clear the fog ...

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