Johannesburg - With the next T20 World Cup less than a year away, Mark Boucher once again opened the door for T20 ‘free agents’ to stake a claim for a spot in the Proteas side, provided they play in a South African domestic tournament.
While acknowledging that he, the selectors and Cricket SA’s playing affairs officials still had to unpack the tournament that ended for the Proteas last weekend, with the next tournament so close, attention would have to turn to the plans for that event soon.
Postponements resulting from the Covid pandemic, meant the tournament which was supposed to take place in Australia in 2020, was then shifted to India in 2021, and then moved again to the UAE. Australia will host the next tournament from October 2022, meaning new plans and possibly different players.
Although they failed to qualify for the semifinals, South Africa largely exceeded expectations in the way in which they played, winning four out of five group matches including a surprising win against tournament favourites England.
“We prepared for subcontinent conditions, going into this World Cup - so we looked at two outright seamers, and playing two spinners. At the next one we may have to look at an extra seamer, and a couple of other spots. Hopefully we get a couple of guys coming through the franchise system and put us under a little bit of pressure to select them.”
That would include former Kolpak players or others who have chosen to ply their trade in various T20 tournaments around the world. Prior to the World Cup, that issue caused a lot of controversy with the likes of Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir and Chris Morris excluded from the squad for this year’s competition. Tahir said no one from SA cricket had talked to him, while Du Plessis’s form in the IPL - including a match winning innings in the final - magnified the issue even more, with CSA also not helping itself with an absent-minded congratulatory post on social media.
“The door is certainly not closed for anyone,” Boucher remarked about selection for the 2022 tournament. “Faf conversation was had; unfortunately it just didn’t work out, with the scheduling and stuff, albeit, it’s been in tough times, in Covid times. ‘Bubble life,’ what I understand from his perspective, has been very tough. Going forward hopefully we can get out of bubble life as soon as possible and get back to some sort of normality with regards to touring.”
A number of players, who took up Kolpak contracts, which are now null and void since Brexit, have returned to various provincial teams, and their impact was noticeable in the T20 Knock Out competition and the first few weeks of the Four-Day series.
“With regards to the (former) Kolpak guys, we’ve said the guys need to come back into our system and do really well, and we’ll judge them in how they play in our franchise system. We can’t judge them on what they have done abroad. Quite a few players have done really well, Rilee (Rossouw) is one of them, Wayne Parnell as well. If they are going about their business in our franchise system then there is no reason we can’t look at them to add more depth to our Proteas squad.”
Boucher explained that he was pleased by how the player adjusted to the demands of playing a more ‘subcontinental style,’ but they would have to adopt a different approach in Australia. “We’ve been challenging guys for a long time now, to think differently and be smart. We found a way to win games in these conditions and we’ll look at the mental shift we need to have for Australia and gradually incorporate that into the way that we play. The guys have been challenged in different ways to up-skill their game and we will keep challenging them for the next set of conditions that we get.”
The Proteas’ captain, Temba Bavuma said he was very happy with the performances of the bowlers in the UAE, less so with the batters. “The bowling in the last while has been exceptional, our bowling is world class,” he remarked.
“Our batting as a whole is not world class, as it stands. I do think from a consistency point of view we can do a lot more from that regard. It’s important that we grow from what we have been able to lay and make sure we go from strength to strength.”