During the past week there have been a number of media reports speculating that Cricket South Africa (CSA) will recall their star players from the Indian Premier League (IPL) about two weeks before the tournament’s scheduled end. This would’ve been unthinkable in seasons before. Why? The star players would’ve been extremely grumpy if CSA eroded their biggest source of income. So why risk the top players’ ire now?
If you represent the Proteas in all three formats it would be safe to assume you’re one of the star players. There are a number of the current Proteas who fall into this category: AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Rabada immediately spring to mind.
Now consider their calendars: Since September 2016 there has already been a once-off ODI against Ireland, a five-match home ODI series against Australia, a three-match away Test series against Australia and against Sri Lanka at home three Test matches, three T20I’s (granted, the star players were rested for these) and five ODI’s. Before one had any time to mull over the Lankan mauling, the South Africans were in New Zealand already to start a 6-weeks tour.
Lying ahead for the star players between now and April 2018 are the following: One T20I, five ODI’s and three Test matches in New Zealand. A week after the end of the New Zealand tour the IPL starts, with the final on 21 May. Four days later the Proteas play the first of three ODI’s against England at Headingley in Leeds, ending on the series on the 29th. On 3 June they kick-off their Champions Trophy campaign against Sri Lanka at the Oval. Assuming they make it to the final on the 18th, a further four matches will be played.
On 21 June the England tour resumes with three T20I’s and four Test matches, ending at Old Trafford in Manchester on 8 August. Some players might then jet off to the Caribbean Premier League which would’ve started on 1 August already. The CPL final is on 9 September.
From 21 September to 29 October Bangladesh tour South Africa for two Test matches, three ODI’s and two T20I’s. This is followed by the newly announced CSA, global T20 tournament. The period 1 November to 16 December has provisionally been set aside in the calendar. The rumours are that from mid-December 2017 to mid-February 2018, India will tour South Africa. If this tour goes ahead, it will no doubt consist of a healthy portion of all three formats. And finally, Australia will come to our shores for a four-match Test series from 22 February to 3 April 2018.
In an earlier column, I was critical of CSA allowing De Villiers to pick and choose in which series or tournaments he wants to play. On second thoughts, I’m beginning to understand why he’d do it: Self-preservation. Whether he’s wrong or right can be debated, but in my book he already has one foot in free agency. Don’t be surprised if soon he doesn’t have more disciples among the Proteas…
The itinerary sketched above is littered with cricket of too little relevance. For example, why does every tour have to have T20I’s? Irrelevant cricket will have an increasingly detrimental effect on Test cricket and eventually the well-being of the game as a whole.
“Less is more” has become something of a cliché in international scheduling parlance. Something more talked of than done about. If the Proteas’ current international itinerary doesn’t make the saying dawn on the administrators in Dubai, I fear nothing will.