The Mark Boucher era has started with clear indications that national selectors will look to grant greater rewards for franchise performers, but the Proteas must balance player progression with continuity.
South Africa need to ensure they don’t fall into the trap of cycling through flavor-of-the-week franchise performers in search of a ready-made solution, especially when it comes to the top order.
The Proteas will name their squad for the final two Tests of the series in the coming days, and while franchise performances should be factored in, a string of changes would send the wrong message.
Young Zubayr Hamza already finds himself under pressure from a public eager to see the Proteas win. Rassie van der Dussen and Pieter Malan have probably done enough to hold on to their places.
Off the back of the loss at Newlands, it might be tempting for the Proteas to bring in some of the 4-Day Domestic Series’ best performers in recent rounds.
The six franchise outfits each have attractive options for a Proteas team that seems to be making progress, albeit in a stuttering manner. Spin-bowling all-rounder George Linde’s 11-wicket haul against the Dolphins, a ton from the Lions’ Dominic Hendricks and fighting 50s from Warriors duo Rudi Second and Sinethemba Qeshile caught the eye in the latest round of domestic action.
As much as first-class cricket in South Africa has been maligned for many years, the Proteas don’t lack for options, but they might be better off resisting the temptation to chop and change in search of success.
The tour to India and the first squad under Boucher have had the Proteas giving international experience to several players, including Linde and Senuran Muthusamy, who claimed a 10-for as the Dolphins turned the tables on the Cobras in Oudtshoorn. It could be argued that both players have international potential. However, there are only 11 places in a Test team and not every franchise player who does well can be given a go in the game’s ultimate format.
The domestic game is also blessed with an abundance of wicketkeeper-batsmen. Second and Qeshile at the Warriors, Kyle Verreynne at the Cobras, Heinrich Klaasen at the Titans and perhaps a little further away from top honours but still promising are the Dolphins’ Grant Roelofsen and Mangaliso Mosehle. This log-jam creates a problem for Cricket South Africa who wants players like these to stay in the domestic game, but cannot offer guarantees of Test-match experience.
Players in the Test set-up need time to prove themselves and adapt to cricket at the highest level, but players who perform consistently well in the domestic game also need to be rewarded. Getting this balancing act right is the key to healthy South African cricket.