The pool’s turn­ing murky at the shal­low end

CityPress - - Sport - Stu­art Longbottom @Long­bot­tom_69 is an arm­chair cricket critic. Blind watch­mak­ing aside, he thinks swim­ming in shal­low wa­ter is a good way to start

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.

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