• The value of South Africa A tours

    Quinton de Kock and Dane Piedt’s performances in India have reaffirmed the importance of South Africa A tours to other countries.

    Especially if it’s the same country that the Proteas are due to tour later in the season. The SA A side visiting other countries is nothing new, but in the context of South Africa’s season, its value can’t be overestimated. The A side are currently touring India, the same country the Proteas will travel to in October for a long 72-day tour, consisting of three T20Is, five ODIs and four Tests.

    Some eyebrows were raised when the national selectors omitted De Kock from the series against New Zealand, but they made the right call in dropping him and, instead of him sitting at home playing video games, sent him to India with the South African A side to regain some form.

    It paid off after the wicketkeeper scored two centuries in two innings (108 and 113) in the triangular series which included Australia A. De Kock continued where he left off in the unofficial Test series, hitting 113 off 102 balls in the first innings of the first Test.

    To be fair he probably didn’t face the best bowling, especially in the first Test, but his confidence will no doubt have improved and he can now return to the national team with some good runs under his belt. Having this SA A tour in India is also a massive advantage and is trend that should be continued with in the future.

    The argument was made prior to De Kock’s axing that he shouldn’t be dropped because he was talented and he was going to be South Africa’s wicketkeeper for the next 10 years. Why does it matter how old he is? Or how talented? Wayne Parnell was rated just as highly at 19 but no one said he was going to be a mainstay in the national setup for years to come.

    There is always that hope, but the truth is there is no guarantee. In the end only performance counts. Look at where Parnell is now. Hopefully De Kock learned from this experience and will be a better player for it. Just because he is the best young keeper in the country doesn’t mean he should be unchallenged or undroppable.

    I didn’t think he was ready to make his Test debut in February 2014 against Australia and I’m still not convinced, but if AB de Villiers doesn’t want to take the gloves, then there really isn’t another option. I do believe, however, that De Kock will be a success for South Africa in the long term.

    He just needs someone to keep an eye on his technique and help him from a mental preparation point of view.

    The SA A tour has had the same benefit for Piedt. He suffered a serious shoulder injury after making his Test debut last year and, instead of rushing him back on the tour to Bangladesh, the spinner was sent to India to regain match fitness.

    He has already taken a five-wicket haul in each of the two unofficial Tests and it almost seems impossible now not to take him to India again in October, this time with the Proteas.

    He would have had valuable experience in subcontinent conditions and together with Simon Harmer remains South Africa’s best spin options in Test cricket, although Imran Tahir would like to have another crack to disprove that statement.