CSA defends its development structures amid lack of fast bowlers

FILE - South Africa's Kagiso Rabada delivers a ball during a Test match against India at Centurion. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

FILE - South Africa's Kagiso Rabada delivers a ball during a Test match against India at Centurion. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Published Mar 10, 2024


Cricket South Africa (CSA) head of pathway Edward Khoza believes the state of grassroots cricket is in a good place and there are plans in place for the next two years that will see more talent being exposed, especially at the under-19 level.

The recent Test series between New Zealand and South Africa was a hot topic for months because of CSA’S decision to prioritise the SA20, which weakened the touring squad to New Zealand.

With South Africa’s rich history of producing quality fast bowlers, it was concerning that none of them seemed to hurry any of the New Zealand batters and very rarely hit 140km/h which makes a lot of difference at that level.

The recently concluded 4-Day Series final between the DP World Lions and Western Province added fuel to the issue as only Tshepo Moreki could hit the 135km/h mark.

Khoza said: “Most of the players that are on the fringes of making the national team were all committed to the SA20, so we had to exclude everyone that was part of that process and almost select guys that are professional cricketers because we didn’t have any room to experiment and send just anyone to New Zealand just to get the tour out of the way. We had to get guys that were experienced.

“You can’t judge our system purely based on the tour to New Zealand. A guy like Kwena Maphaka would have already played for South Africa A had it not been for the under-19 World Cup.”

Khoza added: “The issue of fast bowling was just a coincidental issue due to the SA20. Had it not been for the SA20, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

“The player depth in the country was tested and if we can make up a team even when the SA20 have taken most of the players, could that mean that our grassroots level is not producing enough quality or that the pathway system is not feeding to the domestic set-up?

“When it comes to the depth and various parts of selection, we don’t really have an issue with fast bowling because when you go back to the series against India, there were new fast bowlers introduced like Nandre Burger. Guys that can bowl 145km/h are a rare skill to find and it’s a process to get to someone like that.

“Every year we bring all our potential fast bowlers. We have a mixture of senior and younger players. The bowlers are evaluated, and we include a sports science aspect and we put them in machines to see if the bowling action is sustainable and if the bowlers will be injury-prone with their action and try to rectify their actions.”

Someone like Burger had been part of that process, he said.

As with every other level above, the grassroots level play a key role in feeding the system and should be prioritised.

“From a pathway perspective we have various programmes. We have 15 members across the country, we have division one and two. Below that we have provincial academies where players are contracted and are between the ages of 19 and 23 and are on a three-year contract with the aim of being groomed,” Khoza said.

“We take them to the national academy for a period of three months and we polish their skills further and we end that with a tour with other countries’ academies or a tour with other countries’ emerging sides.

“Below we have a talent acceleration programme, it’s there to deliver under-19 players. With that programme we already have players earmarked to be at the under-19 World Cup for the next two years.”

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