George Linde was drafted in after Smuts was pulled out. Picture: TWITTER
George Linde was drafted in after Smuts was pulled out. Picture: TWITTER

London — What will George Linde bring to the SA T20 campaign in India that Jon-Jon Smuts will not? A steady bat and decent left-arm orthodox bowling.

That does not sound especially different to what Smuts might have brought‚ except that he is a better batter.

But Smuts is no longer in the mix for the three-match series‚ which starts in Dharamsala next Sunday‚ after “failing to meet the team’s fitness standards”. That is according to a Cricket SA release on Thursday‚ which also reads the uncapped Linde will replace him.

Smuts declined to discuss the specific reasons for his axing on Thursday‚ but in effect has been labelled out of shape.

The last time he picked up a bat was in May‚ when he scored 121 at more than two runs a ball in a losing cause for the Warriors in the T20 final against the Lions at the Wanderers. It is impossible to believe that performance would not have made Smuts spend the winter keeping himself in good physical nick‚ what with the series in India then on the horizon.

That was surely the case even though he played the most recent of his eight T20 internationals in February 2018‚ and that SA have since had 11 games in the format without him. But‚ apparently‚ the science says otherwise and Smuts’s loss is Linde’s gain.

We know Linde’s fitness is up to scratch because he is already in India playing for SA A. In three one-day games he has scored 69 runs — 52 of them in one innings — and taken three wickets at an average 37.00 and an economy rate of 8.53. Those are hardly numbers to write home about‚ but fitness protocols have become part of the gospel of the increasingly frenetic modern game.

Linde had a better batting strike rate than Smuts in the 2018 Mzansi Super League — 153.57 versus 117.74 — but it was difficult to separate them in bowling terms‚ where Linde’s strike rate was 7.80 and Smuts’s 7.81.

With all-rounders of the calibre of Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius also in SA’s squad it is doubtful whether Smuts or Linde or anyone else would have got a look-in anyway.

But Smuts sounded deeply disappointed at his fate‚ and so he should. He turns 31 in just more than two weeks and‚ having fallen out of favour‚ this was probably his last chance to stake a claim to go to the 2020 T20 World Cup.

Now Linde‚ almost four years Smuts’s junior‚ has been handed that chance. It is up to him to make it count.