Unpredictable times ahead for Proteas
The announcement this week that South Africa will contest an extended 12-match tour of India in October and November across all three formats will have sounded like the opening of a turbo-powered cash register to many of this country’s administrators – but they will have to wait.
Every meaningful cent and rupee from millions of dollars generated by this year’s tour will go straight to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) – as is the fashion for international bilateral tours. The host union sells the television rights, which is where the vast majority of the cash comes from.
But when India next tour South Africa, scheduled to be in January and February of 2018, they are due to reciprocate with an identical schedule of four Test matches, five ODIs and three T20 internationals. The instability and weakness of the rand make it tricky to predict accurately so far in advance, but such a tour should amount to income in excess of R400-million for Cricket South Africa (CSA).
Equally hard to predict is the instability and moral flaccidity of the BCCI executive, which thought nothing of slashing last year’s tour from 12 to just five matches as “punishment” for a never-specified violation of its “code” by CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat.
Meanwhile, the Proteas and their bosses had better be on their best behaviour. Another amputated or, perish the thought, euthanised Indian tour would be catastrophic for the game in this country, even if the rand depreciates by another 30% against the currency of TV rights – the US dollar – which was the main reason the damage was limited so substantially and fortuitously last year.
Bangladesh will provide the hors d’oeuvres – two Tests, three ODIs and a pair of T20s – in July with the possibility that a cocktail trio of ODIs against Zimbabwe in Harare might precede that trip. Selection convenor Andrew Hudson, who will be replaced when a new panel is named next week, has made several significant changes for the future in his final assignment.
Four uncapped players have been drafted into the Test squad, although Cobras wicket-keeper batsman Dane Vilas is only there as cover for Quinton de Kock, an insurance job usually filled by AB de Villiers, who will miss the Test section of the tour to be present at the birth of his first child. It ends his unbroken 98-Test run, the longest ever from debut but some way short of the 153-Test sequence of the original “AB”, Australia’s Allan Border.
Batsman Reeza Hendricks is also likely to carry drinks while the exciting pace of Kagiso Rabada will be used in the ODIs but only in the event of injury in the Tests. Left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso, however, may be used in tandem with off-spinner Simon Harmer if the flat pitches of Dhaka and Chittagong are deemed too demoralising for the vaunted Steyn-Morkel-Philander pace trio to play both matches together.
Chris Morris makes a welcome return to the ODI squad, as does all-rounder Ryan McLaren after his shameful omission from the World Cup squad. Yet another member of the Lions squad, leg spinner Eddie Leie, has been recognised with a call-up to the T20 squad.
An obscurely arranged ODI series against New Zealand takes place in August before one of the busiest summers in recent memory starts with the India tour and is immediately followed by the arrival of England for a packed Christmas schedule of four Tests, five more ODIs and another two T20s.
There is a good deal of change already, but still more familiarity. By the end of February next year there might well be more new faces than familiar ones. South Africa’s lead at the top of the Test rankings is huge but is still based primarily on performances from a team that included players such as Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith.
The ODI squad will have to prove (to themselves far more than anyone else) that they have recovered from the emotional and psychological damage inflicted by the nature of their exit from the World Cup. The T20s? Well, whatever. Nobody will really care until a few weeks before the T20 World Cup in March next year.
There is work to be done.