The decision to drop Stiaan van Zyl for the One-Day Cup final against the Lions came back to bite the Cape Cobras.
The final was a one-sided, anti-climactic affair mainly due to the fact that the Cobras just didn’t pitch up for a game they should have been desperate to win. Their record in knockout games remains poor and it is the second year in a row they have lost a home final in the One-Day Cup.
Seeing the team sheets before the game, the overwhelming feeling was that the Cobras batting line-up was a bit light with only five specialist batsmen.
In hindsight, the decision to drop Van Zyl in favour of the more explosive Richard Levi was perplexing. The Newlands pitch looked tailor-made for someone of Van Zyl’s talents but instead he had to watch from the sidelines as his team crumbled to 169 all out.
Van Zyl’s omission for this game raises several issues.
Firstly, the initial reaction was why didn’t they leave out Omphile Ramela or Aviwe Mgijima instead? Glancing over the team the Cobras had seven players of colour in their starting XI, for which they should be applauded, of which three are black African.
So even though Van Zyl was the second highest run-scorer for the Cobras in the One-Day Cup with 347 runs in eight games at an average of 57.83, he could not keep his place in the side at the expense of a black African player, despite the fact that Ramela (256 runs in 11 games at 23.27) and all-rounder Mgijima (40 runs in five innings and 1-58 from nine overs in three innings) are less-productive players.
Fair enough. That is the system and policy that we are dealing with in this country and by which every team must abide.
That leaves us with Richard Levi, the player to whom Van Zyl lost his place in the team. Picking a player of Levi’s potential abilities for a final makes sense on a certain level because he can be a match-winner.
The calculated risk to play him instead of Van Zyl backfired, which happens in sport and shouldn’t be criticised too harshly. However, Levi only played six games in the competition because he and a few others left midway through to go and play in the Masters Champions League, the latest T20 league to pop up and which was originally designed for retired players. Instead it has resulted in many active players pursuing a NOC from their governing bodies to go make a quick buck.
Levi was rewarded for his lack of loyalty by walking straight back into the team for the final while someone like Van Zyl, one of the best batsmen at the franchise and a loyal servant, was discarded.
It’s doesn’t seem fair, because it isn’t.
A lack of loyalty in professional sport is hardly a revelation but as long as players continue to reap the rewards, despite abandoning their team in the middle of a competition they will keep on doing it for their own personal gain.
All these T20 leagues make it unavoidable. A major shift is coming and it doesn’t look like Cricket South Africa is prepared for it.