The pool’s turning murky at the shallow end
It was consummate troublemaker and smug evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins who said: “Natural selection is anything but random.” This statement might be applicable to South African cricket at the moment, where it seems what’s going on in the backrooms as regards support and selection staff, as well as series scheduling, is indeed anything but random. Or is it? This week, we learnt of a raft of changes to the support team who will, over the next two years, attempt to groom the Proteas for some mouthwatering upcoming clashes. The most notable of those changes is the appointment of Charl Langeveldt as the new bowling coach, taking over from Allan “White Lightning” Donald and Linda Zondi – with his impressive portfolio of three first-class matches and a high score of 20* – taking over from Andrew Hudson as the national selector.
Then, perhaps in an effort to politely divert public attention from the realpolitiking bomb of transformation, we learnt from Cricket SA big cheese Haroon Lorgat that the association would team up with the Board of Control for Cricket in India to bring us a “Mandela-Gandhi” test series.
“India has really warmed up to the idea of making … an icon series between South Africa and India.
“So we will play four tests in India and they will come back in 2018 and play the equivalent.
“We want to style it as the Mandela-Gandhi series,” Lorgat was quoted on Cricbuzz.com as saying.
An “iconic” series running from 2015 to 2018?
Talk about drawing out an already drawn-out sports format.
Naturally, there’s something to be said for styling a series after not one, but two humanitarian icons and getting on with it.
Through the smoke and daggers, at least the tangible prospect of not one, but two series of the purest form of the game, between arguably two of the greatest modern test cricketing nations, looms large.
But the appointment of Langeveldt as bowling coach is puzzling, and substantiates Dawkins’ interpretation of natural selection.
It likely has something to do with Cricket SA, according to Lorgat, as quoted in the same Cricbuzz.com report, becoming “a bit more aggressive in the transformation space” and making “no apologies for that”.
Lorgat added that “there is a moral obligation to get things right” and, in order to sustain the Proteas’ number one test ranking, selectors “must draw from a much wider pool”.
That “wider pool” shimmers invitingly in the warm context of Lorgat’s focus on transformation, but it seems Cricket SA has plucked Langeveldt from its shallowest reaches.
The new bowling coach, who played just six tests for the Proteas and was in and out (more out) of the one-day squad for nine years, will no doubt be mandated to groom players from a “wider pool”.
But would Makhaya Ntini, for argument’s sake, whose records in all forms far outshine Langeveldt’s, not have been a more fitting choice?
Or would that have made the pool a little too “wide” for Lorgat’s liking?
Either way, the agenda is very clear. Over the next two years at least, selection in South African cricket across the board, from selectors themselves to players, is going to be nothing but an exercise in “natural selection” that even Dawkins might want to consider studying if ever randomness crosses his mind again.