Why South Africa should be concerned about their recent limited-overs form
Despite two matches remaining, South Africa already have a fair share of questions they will have to answer once this tour is over. This article aims to highlight and break down some of the key questions which have arisen for South Africa. Further, it addresses what implications these questions have for the future of South African cricket.
"Second String Side"
Watching the South African media and fans talking about the 50-over series, one could very well assume that this was a second-string South African team playing. A lot of their fans seem to attribute South Africa's poor performance to their missing key players: De Kock, de Villiers, and du Plessis. However, upon looking at the facts and statistics, the following conclusions can be made:
- In the eight innings that de Kock played against India across formats, he averaged a pedestrian 15.62, and crossed the 40 mark only on one occasion. His replacement, Klaasen, not only won South Africa the 4th ODI where he made 43*, but he also played another vital cameo of 39 in the 5th ODI. The only time that South Africa looked in the game was when Miller and Klaasen constructed reasonable partnerships with Amla. In conclusion, I think we can safely say that de Kock's replacement, while inexperienced at the international level, had more of an impact than de Kock would have potentially had, had he played.
- AB de Villiers also played three of the ODIs and was only able to aggregate 62 runs across them. Though he seemed to threaten at times, he perished far too early. De Villiers is probably one of the greatest to have played the game, but he still performed quite ordinarily in this series, at least by his standards.
- While one would agree that du Plessis' replacement did not make the same kind of impact that he would have, it should be noted that South Africa lost the 1st ODI despite du Plessis making a hundred.
The actual second-string side
It is safe to say that the T20I team South Africa picked was actually a second string side, but the absolutely dismal performance of the players within that team also raises some questions. Looking around the world, each top team has a few solid players in the second string squad. The second string squads of these teams can at least compete with international sides, particularly in the T20 format. Consider the following two examples of India and Australia:
India - Jaydev Unadkat, Shreyas Iyer, Mohammed Siraj, Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Dinesh Karthik to name a few
Australia - D'Arcy Short, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Agar, Kane Richardson to name a few
It is quite safe to conclude that with the Kolpak situation as it is, and the unlikely nature of the GLT20, there is a dearth of quality second string players in South African limited overs cricket. David Wiese, Rilee Rossouw, Kyle Abbott, Richard Levi all used to be good prospects for a second string South Africa T20 team, but all of them chose the Kolpak route.
It is not just these experienced players affected by this, even young players can be impacted by Kolpak deals. Take, for instance, Faf du Plessis, South Africa's captain. As a young player in 2007, he too signed a Kolpak deal which made him ineligible to play for South Africa until he finally returned in 2010-11. Even one of the finest young talents in the country, Aiden Markram, was rumoured to be considering a Kolpak deal (though he did deny these rumours later on). It can further be concluded that the gap between the first team players and the backup players/second eleven is too wide, and something must be done about this.
The Way Forward
With the 2019 World Cup not far away, and a lot of the senior players considering it as their swan song, South Africa must start putting in some more planning. Even if they somehow end up winning the 2019 World Cup, the state of South African cricket will be volatile with a lot of the senior players retiring.
In Markram, they have a natural leader of men, and in Rabada, they have an extremely young bowler who has already established himself as the leader of the attack. They need to nurture these two, along with other young talents like Ngidi and Phehlukwayo. At the same time, they really need the GLT20 to catalyze the process of discovering up and coming talent in South Africa to ensure that they do not lose talented players to Kolpak deals, or worse, to the system itself.