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Hudson’s focus shifts to 2015

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By Stuart Hess

‘The Champions Trophy also marks the halfway point to the next ICC World Cup so this is a critical part of our preparation to win these two major ICC events,” said Andrew Hudson, the national convener of selectors, on Sunday.

There are just under six months to go to the Champions Trophy in England and a little more than two years before the next World Cup in Australia.

It appears, from Hudson’s comment, that preparations are in full swing. Hudson and Co must identify the personnel likely to represent South Africa in Australia. Now is not the time for strategising, but rather to play and grow accustomed to being in the national shirt, and to work out who belongs there.

The mental side of it – South Africa’s biggest weakness in tournament play – is something that can only be assessed closer to the event once a clearer picture emerges of who will be in the team.

Gary Kirsten is fond of saying, in relation to the Test team, that players can’t prepare for Test matches playing in warm-up games but only playing Test matches. A similar philosophy will hold true for the World Cup.

South Africa have gone into numerous tournaments over the years looking slick and playing with confidence and a swagger. Then they reach the knockout phase of a competition and crumble.

Kirsten knows he can’t prepare the players for a tournament knockout game now. Playing for a series doesn’t provide the same pressure, not when there’ll be another series two weeks after you’ve lost one.

Half of the ODI squad named for the series against New Zealand played in the 2011 World Cup. But it’s the new names that are most intriguing. Quinton de Kock has jumped the queue as far as wicketkeepers are concerned. Farhaan Behardien is there, hoping to display the same finishing skills for which he’s renowned domestically. If he doesn’t, Dave Miller should be in the side – it’s a mystery that he isn’t, especially as he’s probably a better bet than Colin Ingram. And then there’s Aaron Phangiso whose consistency domestically has been rewarded.

Hudson and his selectors have about a year to sort through the personnel – the Champions Trophy provides a chance to examine a few new faces but, ultimately, all eyes are on that next World Cup, the first small signs of planning having started with the squad for the series against the Kiwis. - The Star

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