SAfrica picks injured Kallis, Tahir for WCup

Kallis was part of the South Africa squad named by selection convener Andrew Hudson following the Proteas’ two-wicket loss to India in the third one-dayer at Newlands.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa _ South Africa put faith in Jacques Kallis returning from injury to boost its World Cup hopes after the key allrounder was included in the Proteas’ 15-man squad on Tuesday.

The 35-year-old Kallis was ruled out of the ongoing one-day series against India with a right side muscle injury, but South Africa’s team management said at the squad announcement in Cape Town it was confident its leading player would be fully fit for the Feb. 19-April 2 tournament.

Kallis was part of the South Africa squad named by selection convener Andrew Hudson following the Proteas’ two-wicket loss to India in the third one-dayer at Newlands.

Also included for next month’s World Cup in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka was Pakistan-born legspinner Imran Tahir and batting allrounder Faf du Plessis _ who made a half-century on debut in Tuesday’s defeat to World Cup co-host India.

Graeme Smith will captain the squad for the final time in a one-day competition after announcing he would step down from the ODI captaincy after the World Cup.

Regular batsmen Hashim Amla, A.B. de Villiers and J.P. Duminy and fast bowlers Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe were all picked as were spinners Johan Botha and Robin Peterson _ giving the No. 4 ranked Proteas three specialist spinning options _ along with Tahir _ on the spin-friendly pitches in the subcontinent.

South Africa chose seven specialist batsmen, four specialist seam bowlers, three spinners, and one replacement wicketkeeper. Smith, Kallis, Peterson and De Villiers are the only surviving members of South Africa’s 2007 World Cup campaign.

Kallis’ fitness was the biggest concern for South Africa ahead of the announcement.

“Jacques is undergoing rehabilitation at the moment, but we are confident with four weeks to go until the World Cup we can get him ready to partake,” Team Manager Mohammed Moosajee said. “However, it’s a week by week process and he is being guided by the medical team.”

Hudson added: “His (Kallis’) absence takes away a lot from our side in terms of stability. In terms of batting he is the anchor at No. 3 and the overs he gives us as a fifth bowler is something we miss as well. But, him being fit will add enormously to the team.”

Veteran wicketkeeper Mark Boucher missed out on the final squad, as did young middle order batsman David Miller.

Morne van Wyk will be the backup wicketkeeper to De Villiers, meaning Boucher’s 13-year, 292-match one-day international career is likely over. Miller was dropped for Du Plessis for Tuesday’s game against India and lost his place at the World Cup to the debutant.

Tahir was the only uncapped player in the squad, and was cleared to be included after qualifying to play for South Africa on the last day of 2010.

The former Pakistan A legspinner is married to a South African and plays for the Duban-based Dolphins team, although he is yet to make his debut for his adopted country despite his impressive wicket-taking exploits for his provincial team.

“We think he’s a unique talent,” Hudson said of Tahir. “The selection of three specialist spin bowlers is essential for the conditions we expect to encounter at the World Cup and it’s not a worry that Tahir has not played an ODI yet. His record in domestic cricket speaks for itself. We know exactly what he offers us.”

South Africa has never won the World Cup and has often underperformed at the tournament after entering as one of the favorites. The Proteas have also never reached a final, losing semifinals in 1992, 1999 and 2007.

The 2011 edition is likely to be the last chance for Kallis and Smith, two of South Africa’s most successful cricketers, to win the top ODI prize.

South Africa is in Group B with Bangladesh, England, India, West Indies, Ireland and the Netherlands. It opens its tournament on Feb. 24 against West Indies.

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