South Africa’s cricket administrators are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to getting the best out of the Proteas.
Whatever we think of Russell Domingo’s methods and motivational skills, his efforts are not being helped by his players, torn as they are between making a lot of money on the commercial T20 circuits, and preserving themselves for elite performances for the national team.
The players will say they can do both; Domingo was forthright in saying his senior players are playing too much cricket. AB de Villiers, for example, went from a gruelling 72-day tour of India, through a four-Test series against England, a World T20 tournament (cut short by their ineptitude); straight into the IPL, back for a triangular tournament in West Indies, staying on for the Caribbean Premier League. That ends on 7 August, and we would like AB to be in form for the New Zealand Tests, which start on 19 August, and for the ODI series against Australia which follows immediately.
That is a lot of cricket. And all of that in the space of just 12 months.
More than one Proteas supporter has noted that his performances for the national team recently have not mirrored his flamboyance in the domestic T20s. Is that an indication of the stifling atmosphere of the national team and the liberation of the T20s? Or an indication that he is knackered when he plays in the green and gold and saves himself for the less-demanding short-form?
There is, of course, a solution. CSA can draw a line in the sand and refuse to issue these players a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) and forbid them from playing in some or all the T20s. Alviro Petersen was refused an NOC when he wanted to play in the Masters Champions League recently, and there was some confusion over Robin Peterson and Rory Kleinveldt, who pitched up without CSA approval in that tournament.
The problem is, the riches available on the T20 circuit can set up the players for life; and they are sums of money CSA could never hope to match, especially given the weak state of the rand.
We can only wonder what Chris Morris would have done, once he had been snapped up by the Delhi Daredevils for the equivalent of about R17-million in the IPL, only to be told by the CSA, ‘we will not give you an NOC’.
You may recall that was start of Kevin Pietersen’s troubles: he wanted to play a full IPL season and not have to return to what he felt was a meaningless ODI series. The ECB put their foot down, saying ‘If you want to play the World T20 for England (which he did), you must play all limited-overs tournaments, or retire from limited overs’. Which is what he did. He was not short of supporters who felt a player of his talent should have been given special dispensation but the ECB, quite rightly, said they would not have their senior players deciding what matches they wanted to play.
But the T20 circuit has become so pervasive, that countries are having to make concessions. Just remember Brendon McCullum opting out of the tour to South Africa because he was wearied by making money in the Natwest T20 Blast.
Morne Morkel was reportedly persuaded to tour with the Proteas for the Triangular series at the expense of a stint with Glamorgan. CSA’s persuasive powers might not prevail come the Sri Lanka tour at the end of the year, which clashes with the Big Bash League.
That is the dilemma facing CSA as they try to find a way to keep their players fresh and alert and winning. I suspect though, that they will shy away from taking a hard line, and the Proteas must make do with what they have got.
Photo: Ashley Allen/Sports File