Cricket South Africa performed excellent public relations work this week. The timing of Rassie van der Dussen’s addition to the national contract list has encouraged a nation reeling from the Test retirement of Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla’s decision to quit all forms of the international game.
Last week’s announcement of a new coaching structure, a few hours after an underwhelming Cricket South Africa awards ceremony, was a consummate lesson in burying the lead. The impending employment of a director of cricket and full-time team director was welcomed, as the head coach and team manager positions were dissolved. A quiet farewell to Ottis Gibson was in there somewhere, too, but certainly not the headline.
Van der Dussen’s elevation to the national contract collective as a replacement for Duanne Olivier, who is perceived as an unpatriotic defector to many, is a valuable move in CSA’s bid to positively influence public sentiment. Voted International Newcomer of the Year and salaried and sponsored at national level soon thereafter – that’s how fresh talent must be treated. The next logical step is inclusion in the Test squad. His first-class numbers, over a sustained period, merit this.
This has been a treacherous period for the country’s cricketing governing body, but Gibson’s end, Steyn’s partial exit and Amla’s farewell to all forms has effectively ensured a watershed couple of weeks, epitomised by Van der Dussen’s promotion and Enoch Nkwe’s appointment as interim team director.
Investment in and, yes, fast-tracking of a coach who has been successful at franchise level recently is wise. To reiterate, Ashwell Prince’s record is good, but lacks title-winning campaigns. Nkwe, remember, won the inaugural Mzansi Super League with the Jozi Stars and the 4-Day Franchise Series and CSA T20 Challenge with the Lions. Mark Boucher, well, might not be receptive enough to the Proteas’ evolving cricket landscape.
The composition of the squad for mid-August’s spin-bowling camp in India, meanwhile, is intriguing. If not Van der Dussen, one anticipates the Warriors’ Ed Moore or Cape Cobras’ Pieter Malan will be South Africa’s next Test debutant. There are likely plans to fast-track Janneman Malan, too.
Amla’s retirement has afforded Zubayr Hamza a near immediate slot in the XI for October’s three Tests – and Visakhapatnam, Ranchi and Pune will bring challenging conditions for the upstart. Several have failed prior. Hopefully, Hamza will fare significantly better this time than, say, Stiaan van Zyl during November 2015’s besieged time in Mohali and surrounds.
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