Cricket South Africa is not doing Sisanda Magala or his public profile any favours by keeping him in the limited-overs squads, but ruling him out of match time for this month’s England series.
It would have been better to let him get thinner, trimmer, leaner, meaner behind the scenes and then name him in the squads, with the full intention of actually getting him into the XI.
Magala was superb for the Cape Town Blitz in the 2019 Mzansi Super League despite his big rig. His performances in the field were particularly athletic for a hefty frame.
But interim director of cricket Graeme Smith and all others involved will cop criticism for keeping Magala around despite not cracking the right fitness criteria to be available for T20I or ODI selection.
Magala was publicly earmarked for international cricket by then director of cricket Corrie van Zyl last year. This was reiterated in a statement by CSA earlier this year. There must be follow-through, eventually.
Circumstances are evidently extenuating and haven’t really received full and transparent justification. They see something special enough in Magala to keep him around as a squad passenger for now. This grace period can’t go on for much longer, though.
Jon-Jon Smuts and Tabraiz Shamsi did enough ahead of the ODI and T20I series against the English to be named in the XI. That said, spinners Shamsi and Smuts don’t have to come off full run-ups like Magala.
The country has been down this road before with the likes of Robbie Frylinck, Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt. Frylinck is still peddling his plump approach in T20 domestic leagues around the world. Kleinveldt recently returned to the Cape Cobras’ limited-overs XI. Levi will be in action for Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom again soon enough. People like to poke fun at weighty cricketers, but are slow to praise star performances from the rotund.
If Magala eventually debuts, in this T20I series or the next against Australia, the full weight of expectation will be on him. A poor performance will likely see blame pinned on his extra kilograms. A solid showing will again prove there is space for players of his bulgy build in international cricket.
Resources and selection for the Proteas have been less than ideal for an extended period. Magala, like others before him, is another example of making do with what is available. Magala is not a perfect specimen – cricket- or fitness-wise – but he is being backed to do well. That backing has proven a bit haphazard so far, but will hopefully reap reward soon enough.
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