One of the most significant challenges that face cricket organisers is that the international game is largely played by bilateral agreement.
The Proteas’ ODI series against England has very little riding on it, barring the reputations of the respective teams and a few ICC rankings points.
For Proteas fans, the context that might give the three-match series some meaning is the future of the format in South Africa and the quality of players coming through the ranks.
England also have an eye on the future, but the core of the side that won the World Cup last year remains, which means the tourists are heavily favoured to take home bragging rights.
After a disappointing 2019 and a challenging Test series against England, expectations are not high for the unit, but the short series could be very important for the five uncapped players in the group.
Sisanda Magala, was dealt a blow when he failed a pre-series fitness test but the other four should be relishing the prospect of pulling on the green and gold.
Cobras batsmen Janneman Malan and Kyle Verreynne will have opportunity to prove they could be a balm for the Proteas’ multi-format batting woes.
Malan and Verreynne play in contrasting ways – the former at times unorthodox in the way he lays waste to bowling attacks while the latter plays in a fashion that reminds one of Kane Williamson of New Zealand.
Verreynne has proven very good at keeping the scoreboard moving for the Cobras through the middle overs and sports a List A strike rate of 93. He is in the squad as a backup gloveman behind skipper Quinton de Kock, but could command a spot in the XI on the strength of his batting alone.
Malan is arguably the most exciting batting prospect in South African cricket and has already been capped in T20Is. He plays the type of bold game that the Proteas are desperate to implement in limited-overs cricket.
The uncapped bowlers are the rapid Warriors seamer Lutho Sipamla and crafty left-arm tweaker Bjorn Fortuin.
Both have been capped in T20Is, with Sipamla exciting pace-devotee Ottis Gibson before his departure from the head coach post, while Fortuin made his international bow in the drawn series in India.
Sipamla worked with Proteas team director Mark Boucher in the Mzansi Super League and his progress as a cricketer has been steady. He is a skillful quick who can only get better as he fills out and gets more exposure at the highest level.
Fortuin was impressive in India and his ability with the bat could give the Proteas’ misfiring top order some much-needed backup. At 25 years old, he is a maturing cricketer who has already shown excellent match awareness in his short international career.
Match results shouldn’t be what the Proteas management focus on during this series. Boucher and co need to focus on building a team that can be competitive at the next World Cup in 2023.
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