SA v England should be ‘us against them’ not ‘the best of us against the rest of us’
THE South Africanisation of English cricket took another step this week when Craig Kieswetter was named in their national development squad.
The pundits are tipping the for mer SA Under-19 keeper, now playing for Somerset, to be fast-tracked into the England ODI team the minute he formally qualifies.
In a year’s time the “English” middle order could read Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Kieswetter of Rondebosch, Maritzburg College and Bishops respectively.
If selected, Kieswetter will replace South African-bor n Matt Prior and he might be captained by Andrew Strauss, who has Johannesburg on his birth certificate.
Prior and Strauss are red herrings in the debate this trend has generated because their formative summers were spent under the milky skies of England not the blazing blue of Africa.
They are what they are as cricketers because of the MCC system. But the other three are a challenge to the concept of international cricket.
They are wearing the three lions because they perceived their career paths to a Protea cap were blocked. In doing so they’re fraying a precious thread. SA playing England is meant to be about “us against them” not “the best of us against the rest of us”.
It should be a reflection of what our gene pool, schools, clubs, provinces, administration, culture, weather and luck can produce against whatever they can throw up.
The important question is why South Africa is such a vastly better training ground for young cricketers than England.
Our sunny, outdoor life and the physicality it nurtures is one obvious factor, as is the greater, and often unhealthy, parental emphasis here on sporting prowess.
The primary reason however contains an uncomfortable truth for many politicians. As with rugby, it’s our elite schools that give us such an advantage.
The educational bloodlines of the Proteas are much broader than the Springboks (who could double as the Grey Old Boys) and they have expanded recently – Paul Harris from Fish Hoek High, Dale Steyn from Phalaborwa’s Hans Merensky and Ashwell Prince from St Thomas’s in PE – but a handful of traditional schools, both English and Afrikaans, with superb facilities and excellent coaching dominate the landscape in each province.
Clashes between these powerhouses at every age are of a standard and intensity which generates hardened, high quality cricketers.
And the strong are being strengthened each year by the channeling of bursary talents.
The impressive Wynberg High, which benefits from old boy Jacques Kallis’ generous development programme, is the best local example – they have 11 boys in the current WP age-level squads.
English players usually are drawn from a far wider range of schools and, as a result, their teenage sport is dissipated and several degrees of competitiveness down from ours.
They try to fill the gap with county structures but Middlesex Colts v Sussex Colts can never match today’s Wynberg against Rondebosch U-19 game as a learning experience.
Which makes it a pity that such verdant local cricketing nurseries are growing English Roses as well as Proteas.