Johannesburg - In Ben Stokes, the Poms are convinced they have finally found the new Ian Botham.
At the Highveld Lions, they like the idea of teenage sensation Wiaan Mulder being called “Baby Kallis”.
And, by the looks of it, the Proteas have a new “Zulu” on their stoep.
Few players have invoked the spirit of former Proteas all-rounder Lance Klusener more than Andile Phehlukwayo has in his first four one-day internationals (ODIs).
Whenever he has a bat or ball in his hands, one gets the feeling that something is bound to happen.
It doesn’t help that he bowls right-handed and hits the ball particularly hard as a left-handed batsman in the lower order – like the man nicknamed Zulu all those years ago.
Judging by his unbeaten innings of 42 in the third ODI against Australia on Wednesday – a match in which he helped David Miller seal the series for South Africa with a partnership of 107 while chasing down 372 – he has that same “patron saint of lost causes” aura that Klusener had about him in his heyday.
And did we mention he wears Klusener’s iconic jersey number 69 in domestic limited-overs competitions?
The projections about the career of the youngster from Margate in KwaZulu-Natal could be a touch irresponsible, given that Phehlukwayo is just 20.
But when Klusener himself acknowledges the veracity of the claims, maybe there is something to the comparisons.
“I think he is going to be way better than I was,” says Klusener.
“He is a lot calmer and he knows what he wants. As a batter, I started my career batting at 11 and he started at seven. He will pick up a yard of pace [in his bowling] as well, like [Kagiso] Rabada has.”
Klusener should know, having plucked Phehlukwayo from Glenwood High School in Durban and taken him to the T20 Champions League two years ago.
“We were looking for an all-rounder to go to the Champions League and I had to convince him to delay some of his matric exams to go with us. He took some convincing – his mum took even more convincing – but he came with us.”
As we are beginning to learn when Phehlukwayo is thrown into the deep end, he swims. He showed glimpses of what was to come with a 22-ball 37 in a vain chase against the Kolkata Knight Riders, which included the bold approach of almost exclusively reverse-sweeping spinner Sunil Narine.
It is an approach that will resonate with those who have watched the first three of South Africa’s five ODIs against Australia, where Phehlukwayo is the highest wicket taker with seven (best bowling of 4/44 in the first game in Centurion) and has made a nuisance of himself with the bat in the lower order.
Klusener, who is now assistant coach for Zimbabwe’s national team, has only watched one of his protégé’s performances – the one that took South Africa by storm on Wednesday.
“His options were good and he looked calm even though he probably wasn’t inside,” says Klusener.
“It was probably nice that he batted with [former Dolphins team-mate] Dave [Miller], but the signs are there that he is a serious all-rounder who can bat at seven and bowl his full quota of 10 overs.”
Most exciting to Klusener is that there is so much more to come from Phehlukwayo:
“He is a big boy; he could get stronger and leaner. He has the potential to bowl at 135 to 140km an hour, and he is a clean striker of the ball.
“I know he scratched around at the beginning of his innings, but nobody in South Africa can hit the ball harder or cleaner. He is right up there with Miller when it comes to that. He is also a helluva hard worker, which is half the battle with all-rounders because of their workload.”
But Klusener cautioned the public to give Phehlukwayo room to grow:
“He was lucky to have David with him on Wednesday, but he is going to have to be smarter and be the one deciding what the approach should be in a chase in that seven or eight position.
“We need to have faith in him because it is a tough place to bat. We need to be patient with him because he is only 20. Imagine what he’ll be like when he is 25.”
With two “dead rubber” ODIs left against the Aussies – and starting today with the fourth game in Port Elizabeth – there is one last thing we probably need to find out about young Phehlukwayo – if he is one of a new breed who may lead us to that elusive world cup, how is his running between the wickets?