What can be done to put South African cricket back on top of the pile again? We have a few ideas for the fu­ture

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

AF­TER a dis­as­trous Tour of Eng­land, which re­cently in­cluded a 3-1 Test se­ries loss,

looks at four ar­eas that need ur­gent at­ten­tion in the na­tional team, and one point for the Proteas new coach to pon­der. enough he should play’ – but that’s the call that’s been made. So, South African cricket must stick with the 22-year-old. It would be welcome if he made some big runs early in his ca­reer to ease the pres­sure, but if SA stick to play­ing sides from the sub-con­ti­nent on green pitches at home, then Markram’s go­ing to face some chal­leng­ing knocks against Bangladesh at the end of Septem­ber. But the Proteas al­most have nowhere else to go in this depart­ment – Markram sim­ply has to work. No 4 spot spoke to a con­fus­ing se­lec­tion pol­icy, a lack of form (in JP Du­miny’s case) and a lack of con­fi­dence in play­ers to as­sert them­selves. No 4 is a vi­tal spot in the or­der, it’s where rhythm for the in­nings is set and the player who oc­cu­pies that po­si­tion usu­ally is re­quired to put the op­po­si­tion bowlers un­der pres­sure. Faf du Plessis wants to back Temba Bavuma in that spot, and you can’t ar­gue with the lit­tle right han­der’s tech­nique and tem­per­a­ment. But he needs long-term sup­port there and he also has to show he can play with greater at­tack­ing in­tent. He has be­come ar­guably the most im­por­tant mem­ber of the Test team. A fully fit Vernon Phi­lan­der means South Africa can play four bowlers – three seam­ers and the spin­ner – if there are con­cerns about Phi­lan­der – it turns into four seam­ers and the spin­ner. Du Plessis was very di­rect when he said Phi­lan­der needs to get fit­ter – to ex­tend his own in­ter­na­tional ca­reer – and make the South African Test team bet­ter. The man him­self needs to em­ploy a per­sonal fit­ness trainer and throw him­self into his work – he’s too valu­able an as­set for his ca­reer to sim­ply frit­ter away. Two out of these three want talks with the new coach and Cricket SA about their fu­tures. Du­miny hasn’t stated yet what he wants to do but it would only be fair for CSA to gain some clar­ity from him as well as to where his fu­ture lies. To­gether that trio has 230 Test caps be­tween them, that kind of ex­pe­ri­ence is hard to re­place. Ideally – and es­pe­cially if Du­miny can re­gain form and con­fi­dence – you’d want them back in the Test side, but too many mixed mes­sages are be­ing sent and some sta­bil­ity through clar­ity is re­quired. It’s worth some se­ri­ous think­ing. The two white ball ver­sions of the game are al­ready so dif­fer­ent and Test cricket is even fur­ther away from the two lim­ited overs for­mats. It ap­pears CSA will ap­point just one coach and per­haps that coach needs to have a cou­ple of high-pow­ered as­sis­tants – one solely re­spon­si­ble for Test cricket and the other for the lim­ited overs for­mats. It surely makes sense to sep­a­rate the two, par­tic­u­larly with the 2019 ICC World Cup in­creas­ingly look­ing like some form of ‘Holy Grail’ for South African cricket.

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