Proteas players must agree to play a certain number of matches for their franchises, while Cricket SA must find a way to keep experienced players from signing Kolpak contracts in order to strengthen the domestic game.
During the Four-Day franchise match between the Cape Cobras and Warriors at Newlands this month, new Warriors coach Robin Peterson spent some tea and lunch breaks with talented 20-year-old left-arm spinner Jade de Klerk in the middle.
The former Proteas left-armer was trying to give De Klerk a bit of guidance and advice about what he picked up during the kid’s spells during the day’s play. The former SA U19 spinner ended up bowling 32 overs for one wicket on a flat deck, and his coach was quite impressed with his progress from age-group cricket to the big leagues.
However, Peterson mentioned that De Klerk would have been better off had a player such as former Warriors spinner Simon Harmer been on the field with him, to give him over-by-over or ball-by-ball advice about the match situation.
Harmer is one of many experienced players who left South Africa on Kolpak deals to ply their trade abroad for various reasons. The chief one is obviously money, as the weak South African currency can’t compete with British sterling.
Those Kolpak players, along with many Proteas players preferring to rather play in T20 tournaments around the world, have a left a hole in South Africa’s domestic cricket as far as experience and quality is concerned.
In the past youngsters coming through the ranks played with senior pros who helped show them the ropes. The standard of cricket was also at a very high level, because you had national players competing with the next generation of stars.
During Paarl Rocks’ season launch ahead of the Mzansi Super League, former Proteas batsman Justin Ontong talked about the calibre of players he played with at Boland and then the Lions, who helped him to become a top pro.
Ontong played with veterans such as Indian international Praveen Amre, Louis Koen and Bradley Player at Boland, while he slotted into a Lions batting lineup with Neil McKenzie, Adam Bacher and HD Ackerman.
Later, when he finished off his career at the Cobras, Ontong was there to help players such as Stiaan van Zyl and Zubayr Hamza develop into top players. However, young cricketers playing first-class cricket today have to rely on coaches for guidance, while playing with their peers out in the middle.
Also think back to the likes of the great Desmond Heyns, who played a massive part in the development of players such as Herschelle Gibbs.
Over the last few weeks we have seen the standard of cricket rise during the Mzansi Super League, because every team is blessed with quite a few experienced players. The lessons the youngsters will learn is invaluable over the course of the next couple of weeks.
But that can’t be the extent of involvement of experienced cricketers in our domestic leagues. Unfortunately, having the Proteas and the best of the rest competing against each other regularly is the only way the cricket in South Africa will improve.