Former Proteas pace bowler Craig Matthews says South Africa has to reduce the gulf between its first-class cricket and Test cricket.
The Proteas finished 2022 on a low, with an innings-and-182-run defeat to Australia in Melbourne, which followed a six-wicket defeat in Brisbane inside two days.
That has seen them drop from second in the ICC Test Championship to fourth.
Matthews, who played 18 Tests for South Africa from 1992 to 1995, believes the standard of the country’s first-class cricket is to blame for the Proteas’ woes.
“The current first-class system is not good enough to produce batsmen who are resistant to any bowling attack from a strong cricketing nation,” he told Rapport newspaper.
“Our six specialist batsmen are also not good enough at the moment. South Africa has become a second-rate Test country.
“The good pitch at the MCG exposed South Africa,” he added. “On pitches at home that are favourable for seam bowling, it narrows the gap between countries, such as between India and the Proteas early this year. The Aussies are lightyears ahead of us.
“Take Temba Bavuma. He is South Africa’s best batsman [with 561 Test runs at an average of 40.07 in 2022]. But in 53 Tests he could only score one hundred, and that while good batsmen hit a hundred every 10 innings.
“If we want to improve our performances in the Test arena, we must implement a strength-versus-strength system in which the six leading provinces play against each other. The SA A team must be on tour continuously and play in several series over 12 months.
“The gap between first-class cricket and international cricket is currently enormous.”