After successfully winning the Test series 2-1 last month, South Africa are now trailing 0-2 in the ongoing six-match ODI series against India on their own turf. On Sunday, the Proteas suffered yet another blow when wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock became the third South African player to sustain an injury in the last few days — after stalwarts AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis, both of whom are currently recovering from finger injuries. De Kock injured his left wrist in South Africa's nine-wicket loss to India in the Centurion ODI, which rules him out of the remainder of the series.
With De Kock requiring at least two to four weeks to recover — putting his participation in the Test series against Australia in doubt — South Africa will be without an opening batsman and a first-choice keeper. This opens the door for the uncapped Heinrich Klassen to fill the void ahead of South Africa's must-win third ODI game in Cape Town on Wednesday. Klaasen, who burst onto the scene at the same time as De Kock, is the only specialist wicketkeeper left in the squad and will be thrown into the deep end.
Klaasen's inclusion in the squad comes after a series of impressive outings on the domestic circuit. During the South Africa Emerging Squad tour to Sri Lanka in 2015, Klaasen's MS Dhoni-like leadership left national academy coach Shukri Conrad in awe of the wicketkeeper-batsman. "Heinrich stays very calm in the situation. He stays in the moment. There’s very much a ‘poor man’s MS Dhoni’ about him. There are really no sideshows to his game and really takes the game to the opposition. He doesn’t wait for the game to come to him and that is what I like most about him. He is as tough as they come,” Conrad told the CSA.
The Pretoria-born gloveman made his first-class debut for Northerns in the 2012-13 season, averaging 42.58 in the provincial three-day cup. Klaasen averaged 52.10 in the following summer and 65.25 in the one after that. He finally broke through to franchise cricket in the 2016-17 season. The right-handed wicketkeeper-batsman earned his maiden Test call-up last year in February after scoring 635 runs at an average of 48.84, including a season-best 195 in the four-day domestic series.
“Heinrich Klaasen was one of the top performers throughout the season and he is rewarded for his form by being included in the Test squad,” CSA selection convener Linda Zondi was quoted by saying by Sport24 in 2017.
Klaasen finished third on the one-day cup run-scorers' list in the Sunfoil limited overs series by scoring 522 runs at an average of 52.20 with an impressive strike rate of 94.05. Moreover, he presents a real threat to under-fire De Kock — who did not reach the fifty-run mark in the ongoing tour against India — for a place in the current South African squad. Du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson hoped that De Kock would regain his lost form in the shorter formats but the recent Klaasen call-up indicates that the competition for the spot is getting tougher by the day.
The third ODI between South Africa and India is scheduled to take place at 4.30 pm in Newlands, Cape Town.