Why do South African sports teams have a tendency of fielding a lot of players that are old? This may sound strange, but what I mean is why is South Africa one of the only sports teams to have many players that are older than 30 in the squad? This is not only in cricket; but also in hockey, soccer, rugby, you name it. The SA hockey teams (both men and women) have players that have 190+ caps to their names, while playing overseas in Belgium, Australia or Holland, and are now struggling to find players older than 18 but younger than 25 to play internationally for a good 7-8 years – starting your international career at 18 is still too young, but having many players over 30 in your squad is a problem when they have to retire either voluntarily or through injury. The same can be said about rugby.
If we are to look at cricket specifically, a lot of players in the Proteas have the thought of retirement in their minds, and that’s all good considering how long some have been playing for South Africa. But how many are we talking here? Well, we have Steyn, Amla, du Plessis, de Villiers, Philander, Morkel, Tahir, and Duminy. That’s three players short of a whole squad. Now I understand that these guys bring so much experience into the team, and they have that presence that makes the opposition quake in their boots, but the reality is that they are going to leave international cricket soon (and very soon), and we need players to come in and step up.
Cricket South Africa has had this trend of not bringing in players with the talent into the squad as soon as they can, and will rest key players then give the rookies a chance. Who’s going to guide them going into that series/match? David Miller? Farhaan Behardien? That’s a serious lack of experience. CSA cannot be having players from the domestic side making their debut internationally at 33 when you have a 22 year old opener waiting in the wings. The England T20 squad in the World T20 last year had a young, but extremely experienced side that had players not older than 29, as I heard a commentator say. England is bringing in players (albeit most aren’t even from England) from a young age when they know they will have an impact on the team. Why can’t CSA do the same?
This past series where SA played England was a disaster; having a middle order change multiple times, batting order collapses where bowlers start doing the top 6’s job in digging us out of trouble, bowlers getting no-ball wickets and no-balls in general, and many other catastrophic moments. Having Heino Kuhn debut may have been based on his scores during the SA ‘A’ tour to England, but he failed to produce the goods when needed. Stephen Cook is making a case for himself to be brought back into the Proteas set up, but is it wise for a 34 year old to replace a 33 year old? Majority of the time, it was senior players that played off-key in the series. Many fans think that SA cricket is in trouble when they see the likes of Amla, du Plessis, or Morkel fluff up during a series. We have many other players that are coming through the system, but whenever SA ‘A’ plays one bad match, many are quick to say our cricket is doomed.
We need the selectors to have more faith and more guts in bringing in these young players to play for the country if, Heaven forbid, all our legendary players retire in quick succession.
My pick of players, whether they’ve played for the Proteas or not, in the next two years to watch out for:
- Khaya Zondo
- Lungi Ngidi
- Wiaan Mulder
- Aiden Markram
- Reeza Hendricks (consistency is key)
- Duanne Olivier
- Andile Phehlukwayo
- Jason Smith
- Dane Paterson
- JJ Smuts (he’s 28 currently, but still has a lot to offer)
I hope CSA realise this soon, and do not wait until it’s too late to bring these guys in and not have to deal with a gaping hole in the starting eleven.