SA in NZ 2021-22 – Simon Harmer recalled for South Africa’s Test tour of New Zealand
The offspinner takes the place of George Linde, who is unavailable due to his impending wedding
Anrich Nortje, who missed the India Test with a hip injury, remains out of action. Selection convener Victor Mpitsang told ESPNcricinfo that Nortje is aiming to be ready to play in the ODIs against Bangladesh at home in March.
The batters who did duty during the 2-1 series win against India all keep their places. Opener Aiden Markram remains part of the squad despite averaging under 25 in his last 19 Tests, with Sarel Erwee and Ryan Rickleton the other contenders for that berth. “We know Aiden has made some errors but the team has been doing well and we are opting to stick with him,” Mpitsang said. With Quinton de Kock retired from Test cricket, Kyle Verreynne is the designated wicketkeeper.
Now, Harmer faces fresh public scrutiny as he returns to the country where transformation targets, which he has been critical of in the past, are a reality and have a direct impact on selection. In 2019, Harmer said the quota system worked against players of colour, whom he believed were not always ready to make the step up, and white players, who were denied an income-earning opportunity. “It’s affecting players of colour because they’re forced into a role and they’re not allowed to develop their skill. They get thrust in and then thrust out, and then they find the next person to come in,” he said at the time. “If I were to lose my place for a player of colour then I don’t have an issue with that. But as a sportsman, I need to maximise my earning potential, and to commit in South Africa where the transformation targets are constantly evolving … your opportunities do get less and less. It’s the nature of South African sport. It’s always going to be there, it’s never going to go away. It’s such a sore topic and taboo to speak about, but it is what it is.”
Whether Harmer will make an immediate comeback into the playing XI is likely to depend on conditions. Both Tests will be played at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch, which over recent years has boasted the quickest pitch in New Zealand that is usually green and bouncy. This is a change from the original schedule that had the first Test in Christchurch and the second in Wellington but, with New Zealand under strict Covid-19 restrictions, travel has been minimised by staying in one venue.
South Africa depart for New Zealand on February 2 and will undergo 10 days of mandatory quarantine before being allowed to train.
South Africa squad for New Zealand tour: Dean Elgar (capt), Temba Bavuma, Sarel Erwee, Simon Harmer, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Keegan Petersen, Kagiso Rabada, Ryan Rickelton, Lutho Sipamla, Glenton Stuurman, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent