Two members of the same family are highly likely to be among the candidates vying for the tantalising “extra” Proteas men’s contract up for grabs from Cricket South Africa.
That they have quite contrasting attributes only adds to the fascination.
Brothers Janneman and Pieter Malan both made healthy strides at times for the national cause in 2019/20, the former as a gritty opening batsman at Test level and the latter as an altogether more swashbuckling factor in the white-ball arena, even if his international debut had come a season earlier in a Twenty20 clash with Pakistan at the Wanderers.
The pair will be mindful of the carrot left dangling by CSA acting chief executive Jacques Faul when, in revealing a 16-strong list of men’s contracted players for next summer recently, he said a 17th berth would be left unfilled to allow for players “qualifying for it through performance”.
They will not be alone, admittedly, in vying for the spot: eyebrows were raised when, for example, Heinrich Klaasen, the individual batting star of the 3-0 ODI series thumping of Australia late in the often troubled campaign, didn’t make the contractual cut.
Slippery young paceman Lutho Sipamla is another who may harbour hopes of contractual recognition sooner rather than later.
But the Malans can’t be too distant on the radar for a deal, either.
Janneman, due to turn 24 later this month, is clearly the more appealing candidate from a long-term point of view as Pieter will turn 31 in the South African mid-winter, although that is not necessarily an impediment to consideration.
The younger, limited-overs dynamo – though keep in mind that he averages an eye-opening 50 from a relatively short first-class career at this point – burst to prominence for the Proteas in the second ODI against the Aussies at Bloemfontein, where he smashed a majestic maiden century (129 not out) off 139 balls.
That came after a golden duck in game one at Paarl, so it probably helped ticked the box for qualities in the “unflappable” department.
He was later latched on, after not being an initial selection, to the South African party which travelled to India for an eventually jettisoned – due to the coronavirus crisis — three-match ODI series there.
Malan has earned an increasing reputation as a crisp hitter of the ball upfront in white-ball cricket, as evidenced by a T20 strike rate at franchise level of 135 (by comparison, David Miller’s is a very similar 138 and the globally iconic AB de Villiers’s 149).
He also managed a strike rate of only a touch under 150 in plundering 358 runs for the Cape Town Blitz in the latest edition of the Mzansi Super League.
Pieter, meanwhile, may have had a modest debut Test series statistically against victorious tourists England – 156 runs in three contests at an average of 26 – but he earned rave reviews from English scribes and commentators alike for his technical acumen and resilience in his plucky, marathon bid to save the glamour Newlands Test on debut.
Malan occupied the crease for 369 minutes in the SA second innings for top score of 84, even though the Proteas were eventually beaten.
He looked obdurate enough for decent spells in the other Tests, although it also seemed clear that he would have to work a little harder to buck up his strike rate in order to prosper more fruitfully in pure weight of runs.
Even if the return of fit-again, more explosive Aiden Markram is highly likely for the short winter Test series in the West Indies – if it happens, which is increasingly doubtful – Malan deserves to be in the touring squad at very least; it is also possible that Markram will be considered for a different berth in the order.
No doubt buoyed by Faul’s “performance” challenge for the additional Proteas contract, the brothers must be wondering, with some consternation, exactly when they will eventually be in a position to respond …
*Follow our chief writer: @RobHouwing
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