Di­chotomy… ‘pick­ing and choos­ing’ , take a break

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

WHEN is “pick­ing and choos­ing” not “pick­ing and choos­ing”? Ap­par­ently when it’s AB de Vil­liers, err, “pick­ing and choos­ing”. Then it’s called “sched­ule man­age­ment” or some­thing. Maybe it’s be­cause De Vil­liers hasn’t been around the na­tional team for a while that he’s lost touch with how it op­er­ates nowa­days, but there is an aware­ness from play­ers, coach­ing staff, se­lec­tors and Cricket SA that it’s im­por­tant to man­age the play­ers’ sched­ules.

We saw it af­ter the Aus­tralia se­ries, much to the cha­grin of the Gaut­eng Cricket Board who wanted to use Kag­iso Rabada in the play-off game of the T20 Chal­lenge. They were in­formed by CSA’s med­i­cal com­mit­tee that fol­low­ing the Test matches in Aus­tralia, Rabada was in the “red zone”, and needed a break. So Rabada didn’t play for his fran­chise.

We are see­ing it again now; Rabada, Faf du Plessis, JP Du­miny, Hashim Amla and Quin­ton de Kock will play no part in the three T20 In­ter­na­tion­als against Sri Lanka, with an eye to keep­ing them fresh for the five One-Day In­ter­na­tion­als, the first of which will be played on Jan­uary 28.

Much the same is likely to hap­pen for the T20s in New Zealand too. Cricket SA’s coach­ing staff and the se­lec­tors have pri­ori­tised the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy in Eng­land in June.

De Vil­liers wants to man­age his sched­ule through to the 2019 World Cup. And to do that it ap­pears he wants to lessen his load in the Test for­mat. More than that, there are Tests he wants to be avail­able for, and oth­ers he doesn’t. So the three Tests in New Zealand in March are a no. As are the four Tests in Eng­land. Four Tests against In­dia? Well maybe, and who knows per­haps his new bat spon­sor, an In­dian com­pany, may push him to play those.

The prob­lem for CSA is this – it looks like De Vil­liers is get­ting pref­er­en­tial treat­ment and if oth­ers see it that way, then what’s to stop them de­mand­ing some­thing sim­i­lar. Rabada, for ex­am­ple, could go: “I bowl fast, it’s very tax­ing on my body, I don’t want to play the two Tests against Bangladesh in Septem­ber, I shouldn’t be needed against them at home any­way.” That won’t hap­pen as Rabada’s too new on the in­ter­na­tional scene for that kind of thing, but he’d al­most be more jus­ti­fied in pick­ing and choos­ing – or man­ag­ing his sched­ule – than De Vil­liers. Af­ter all, when it comes to fast bowl­ing and bat­ting, the de­mands are hugely dif­fer­ent.

Cricket SA can­not al­low play­ers to dic­tate terms as it seems De Vil­liers is do­ing now. They have al­ready shown this sea­son they do un­der­stand the phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional de­mands put on play­ers and, when nec­es­sary, are happy for them to have a break. It would be good if De Vil­liers recog­nised it as such, and played along in that sys­tem.

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