SOUTH AFRICA are facing a major internal fall-out before the first Test against England at Centurion next week.
Yesterday the nation’s top-selling newspaper, the Johannesburg Sunday Times, claimed a “chasm” has opened up between controversial coach Mickey Arthur and head of selectors Mike Procter.
South Africa named an expanded squad of 15 for Centurion yesterday as they struggle to cope with all-rounder Jacques Kallis’s rib injury and paceman Dale Steyn’s hamstring problem.
The conflict between Arthur and Procter, who made his name as a paceman with Gloucestershire in the 70s, centres on the roles of seamers Wayne Parnell and Friedel de Wet.
Procter watched De Wet in action with England reject Monty Panesar for the Johannesburg Lions against Durban’s Dolphins at The Wanderers for three days last week and said:. "De Wet was running in with a big heart. In Test cricket you need pace and he's a genuine fast bowler. Guys can rise to the occasion and guys can fall by the wayside. I think he'll respond well if given the chance."
But Arthur is known to prefer Parnell, who played in the one-day series. When Procter, at Sun City for the golf classic on Sunday, was asked how deep the chasm has become, he said: "What happens is that you get differences of opinion. Mickey doesn't agree with everything I say and I don't agree with everything he says. I think that's pretty healthy."
A public rift at the highest level is unlikely to help South Africa’s confidence, which has already taken a battering before the first Test on 16 December. Rain in Durban on Friday handed Andrew Strauss’s men an unlikely 2-1 win over the hosts in the four-match one-day showdown – the hosts first home series defeat since 2002 - and India’s win over Sri Lanka yesterday pushed South Africa down to No2 in the world Test rankings.
The Proteas need a 2-0 or 3-1 win over England, fifth in the rankings, to snatch back top spot. England have problems of their own with the news that Jimmy Anderson, who took a best-ever 5-23 in the ODI win at Port Elizabeth eight days ago (pictured), has stayed in Durban for treatment on his injured knee.
While the rest of the squad flew to East London for their warm-up games against a South African invitation side this week, Anderson’s knee has got the England physios scratching their heads.
He needed a cortisone injection before his heroics last week and uncapped Durham seamer Mark Davies has been called up from the Performance Squad as cover for Anderson with Ryan Sidebottom also struggling.
Davies only played nine championship matches for Durham last year, taking 19 wickets at 29.6, but grabbed 6-76 for the Performance Squad against Gauteng in Pretoria last week.
Anderson was set to fly home for treatment before his remarkable recovery in Port Elizabeth, where he also revealed he injured a toe while kicking a locker in the defeat at Newlands in Cape Town 11 days ago.
Anderson’s former Lancashire and England captain Michael Vaughan, forced into retirement by his own knee problems, said: “I know as much as anybody about knees and I hate this talk of Jimmy's problem. There must be something wrong for them to have talked about him coming home.
"It's so important he stays fit because he's got the ability to make a difference with the ball that no other England player has at the minute."