Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith, raising questions over fitness of Vernon Philander, has said that the fast bowler has been a struggle to keep on the field and it is frustrating to see a senior player struggling with fitness.
“This whole series, it’s been a struggle to keep Vernon on the field. It gets frustrating when you’ve got a senior player and an outstanding performer like him and fitness is becoming an issue,” Smith told ESPNcricinfo. “It raises questions about whether he is fit enough to be picked in the first place.”
Last Test, Philander had to leave the match mid-way due to an back problem. He still came out to bat and tried saving South Africa from a defeat. His team lost the third Test to trail 2-1 in the series. But, he declared himself fit for the fourth Test before being ruled out on the day of the Test. after failling a fitness Test.
“He needs to look at that, he needs to do a lot more work in his time away from the team to make sure this doesn’t keep happening,” said Smith.
Smith had captained Philander from 2011 to 2014 and during his captaincy, Philander from his debut in 2011 until Smith’s retirement in March 2014. He said that the captain needs to be stern towards the pacer.
“Sometimes you need to be a little bit harder on Vern. His skill levels are there but you need to get him into the contest sometimes,” he said.
According to the report, Smith said that he wants Philander to focus on his fitness and prolong his career as he only plays Test cricket. He also said that he should take care of his off-field activities. Philander has had a big season of niggles.
“One of the big issues for him is fitness and he does need to take a look at it. He is at that phase of his career where if he doesn’t, he could fade away pretty quickly. It makes it very difficult for Faf to build a team. You want your senior player to be respected and you can’t afford Vernon to not be finishing a series.”
South Africa are already missing former world number one bowler Dale Styen due to a shoulder injury. In the ongoing fourth Test, Chris Morris was also ruled out.
“Tactically and skills wise, we’ve been found wanting especially with the bat. There is only one player averaging in the 40s [Dean Elgar] and the rest are 35 and below. You can’t expect to come to England and compete if you can’t get big totals,” Smith said.
“The challenge for Hashim at this stage of his career is that there is a lot of pressure on him to perform in that No. 3 position with the other batters struggling to find their feet,” Smith said. “In a line-up where he had myself, Kallis, AB and everyone else, there was maybe not as much pressure on him. So this is a new challenge to him at this stage of his career.”