Quinton de Kock has been named as stand-in captain of South Africa's ODI squad to play England, which is without regular skipper Faf du Plessis and frontline seamer Kagiso Rabada, who are both being rested. The squad includes Lungi Ngidi, subject to a fitness test after he missed out on the Tests through injury, as well as Temba Bavuma, who is also back in Test contention after a first-class best of 180 last week, and five uncapped players.
Fast-bowler Lutho Sipamla, death-bowling specialist Sisanda Magala, left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin, opening batsmen Janneman Malan and wicketkeeper-batsman Kyle Verreynne are all in line to earn their first ODI caps.
The presence of so many new and returning faces, including that of a new captain, is part of South Africa's efforts to plan for the impending retirement of all-format captain du Plessis, who will assess his future after the T20 World Cup in November. "We need to create leaders," Linda Zondi, CSA's independent selector told ESPNcricinfo. "Faf is still the captain and he is not out of the picture at all. This is part of our succession plan. Quinny is one of the guys we have identified for the future."
De Kock has leadership experience with the Cape Town Blitz in the Mzansi Super League (MSL) and was in charge of South Africa's T20 side on their tour to India last September, which du Plessis sat out. He would appear to be the leading contender to take over when du Plessis steps down and is considered among the senior-most members of the squad, across all formats.
De Kock made his international debut in December 2012 after an impressive showing at that year's U19 World Cup in Australia and was called up into the ODI squad just a month later. He boasts 115 ODI caps with 4,907 runs at an average of 45.01, including 14 centuries and 24 fifties. De Kock is South Africa's highest run-scorer so far after three of the four Tests against England with 265 runs at 44.16 but the manner of some of his dismissals, to rash shot-making, has drawn criticism. However, de Kock has CSA's acting director of cricket, Graeme Smith's stamp of approval.
"We all know the quality of the player that Quinton de Kock has grown to become. Over the years, we have watched him grow in confidence and become one of the top ODI wicketkeeper-batsmen in the world," Smith said.
"He has a unique outlook and manner in which he goes about his business and is tactically very street-smart. We are confident that the new leadership role will bring out the best in him as a cricketer and that he can take the team forward into the future and produce results that South Africans the world over can be very proud of."
However, South Africa have (and doubtless, will) also consider other options. Aiden Markram, who could not be considered for this series as he continues his rehabilitation on a broken finger, was trialled for a series against India in 2018. South Africa lost the series 1-5 and Markram's form dipped in the aftermath, across formats. Another candidate is Bavuma, the Test vice-captain who has been at the centre of a social media storm after du Plessis called for him to earn his recall with "weight of runs" after recovering from a hip injury that forced him out of the first Test.
ALSO READ: Moonda: It's time for de Kock to step up
In essence, Bavuma, South Africa's only black African batsman, was dropped after averaging 19.84 in 2019. At the time, South Africa's leadership core indicated Bavuma would be given opportunities in other formats, especially after finishing in the top 10 in the MSL. Bavuma has two ODI caps to his name, played 13 months apart. He scored a century on debut against Ireland and 48 against Bangladesh more than a year later. Now, Zondi has indicated Bavuma will be given a decent run in the squad. "With Temba, when we played him before in some ODIs it was because of injury or resting senior players but now we have said to him that this is a big opportunity for him. And we want to see him make use of the opportunity," Zondi said.
Similarly, there are other players who will see the chance to nail down regular spots in the 50-over side which will be completely rebuilt in the aftermath of a disastrous 2019 World Cup campaign. South Africa lost five of their nine group stage matches and were the first team to be eliminated, an embarrassment that saw the entire coaching staff sacked and the retirements of Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and Imran Tahir.
The survivors from that campaign are de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Ngidi and Beuran Hendricks (who was a late replacement) with no room for Chris Morris or Dwaine Pretorius in this squad. Instead, Phehlukwayo is the lone seam-bowling allrounder with the focus on specialists.
Reeza Hendricks, who narrowly missed out on a World Cup spot, will compete with Malan, who was second on the MSL run-charts, while Verreynne, Smuts and Bavuma will make up the top-order. Miller and Phehlukwayo will play the finishing roles but the exact composition of the attack will depend on fitness. Ngidi, Magala, Shamsi and Smuts are currently involved in a three-week-long strength-and-conditioning camp at CSA's Centre of Excellence in Pretoria which ends on January 31 with a fitness test. All four are required to pass before they will be considered for the ODIs.
For Ngidi, the challenge will be proving his match fitness, after being on the sidelines since the late stages of the MSL where he sustained a hamstring injury. "His workloads are on the rise and his progression is coming along nicely," Zondi said.
The other three have relatively long-running fitness concerns, with Smuts having been withdrawn from the T20 squad to play in India last September, Magala failing to pass fitness tests recently and Shamsi regarded as the first-choice spinner. Zondi is particularly hopeful Magala will improve quickly because "he has special skills in white-ball cricket."
Magala had an impressive domestic fifty-over cup in the 2019-20 season and a good MSL and could be a shoe-in for a more sustained role in future. The only other bowler who could not be considered is Junior Dala, who topped last summer's 50-over wicket-charts, but picked up a knee problem in the MSL.
South Africa squad: Quinton de Kock (capt), Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Jon-Jon Smuts, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lutho Sipamla, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Sisanda Magala, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Janneman Malan, Kyle Verreynne.