Columns 31.12.2016 09:00 am

The quota conundrum

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

Domestic cricket hasn’t produced enough black cricketers with the potential to play international cricket. That’s the legacy South Africa faces.

There have been moments during the first Test between the Proteas and Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth where a creepy thought sprung up now and again.

It happened when Temba Bavuma, known to be an excellent batsman against spin, succumbed twice to that type of
bowling.

When Kagiso Rabada was bowling a spluttering spell in the first innings, the fear struck too. What exactly do the Proteas do when these two players hit a slump? That is a complicated question to answer.

Mid-year, Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced quota requirements for the national side.

By gentlemen’s agreement, the Proteas need to select at least two black African players in every starting XI.

CSA gave leeway by stating representation would be measured by a seasonal percentage, meaning the Proteas can get away with picking one black African in the odd game. Nonetheless, that’s hardly a comfort.

The problem with losses of form is that it’s temporary but not fleeting.

You don’t help a player regain his touch by leaving him out for a game or two. Players, in a weird sense, get back into form by continuing to play – in a less pressurised environment.

Let him play domestic cricket – to free up the clutter in the mind.

But that’s not the case in Bavuma and Rabada’s case.

The biggest problem is who do you replace them with?

CSA has tried to address the lack of black representation at senior level by implementing aggressive quota requirements.

Every Saturday 31 December 2016 12 franchise needs to pick six non-white players, of which three must be black. In time, it will broaden the base of black players South Africa can pick from.

But domestic cricket hasn’t produced enough black cricketers with the potential to play international cricket. That’s the legacy of not having a strong base to build on when the quota regulations were implemented.

Omphile  Ramela, the Cape Cobras’ four-day captain, has played for South Africa A and, earlier this year, compiled a gritty 82 against Australia A in an unofficial Test. But the left-hander is not a dynamic batter.

One viable option is Andile Phehlukwayo, the 20-year-old  all-rounder from  the  Dolphins.

He made a splendid impression in the triumphant 5-0 drubbing of the Aussie  in October and is improving rapidly.

Yet that’s it. There truly is no other black player at the moment ready for the demands of Test cricket.

Also, at some stage, this issue will be unfair on Bavuma and Rabada. Imagine for one moment the two rookies go into a horrible slump.

It’s quite conceivable that they won’t be sent back to domestic cricket to have a bit more fun.

They might be granted a few more opportunities in the Test cauldron, placing further strain on them.

And then, if the selectors decide to drop them, they might not be afforded a decent break away from international cricket because the national side needs them back quickly. It all re quires a very strong mind.

Hopefully, the two will be up for it – or it will never happen.

 

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