Whatever the real or perceived shortcomings and misgivings might be of the South African domestic cricket system, the rate at which this country produces top cricketers is still staggering.
The 2017 English county season started last weekend. A quick glance over the county squads reveals that at least 46 South African born cricketers (and I’m sure there is a name or two missing in the list below) will grace the fields of the sport’s birthplace during the northern summer. Not distinguishing between the types of contract these players are on – for it is not the purpose of this article to jump on any Kolpak or “defection” band wagon – they are:
- Derbyshire: Hardus Viljoen, Wayne Madsen, Daryn Smit and Imran Tahir.
- Durham: Brydon Carse, Keaton Jennings and Stephen Cook.
- Essex: Simon Harmer, Ryan ten Doeschate and Neil Wagner.
- Glamorgan: Colin Ingram, Chris Cooke, Marchant de Lange and Jacques Rudolph.
- Gloucestershire: Graeme van Buuren and Gareth Roderick.
- Hampshire: Gareth Berg, Bradley Wheal, Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott.
- Kent: Sean Dickson and Wayne Parnell.
- Lancashire: Dane Vilas and Ryan McLaren.
- Leicestershire: Colin Ackermann, Cameron Delport and Dieter Klein.
- Middlesex: Dawid Malan, Nick Compton and Stevie Eskinazi.
- Northamptonshire: Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt.
- Somerset: Johann Myburgh, Roelof van der Merwe, Tim Groenewald and Dean Elgar.
- Surrey: Kevin Pietersen, Tom Curran, Jade Dernbach, Mathew Pillans and Conor McKerr.
- Sussex: Stiaan van Zyl, David Wiese and Vernon Philander.
- Warwickshire: Grant Elliott and Jonathan Trott.
The only counties with no South African flavour on the field are Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire and Yorkshire.
A similar count of Australian cricketers added up to 19. This is probably not 100% accurate but the exact number will definitely not be as high as the South African tally.
Off the field, South Africans also have a presence. Mark Davis and Pierre de Bruyn are the head coaches at Sussex and Leicestershire respectively and Allan Donald will be Kent’s assistant coach as soon as he can get his coaching badges sorted out.
South Africa can truly be proud of the sheer number of quality cricketers it produces. The country is continuously making an invaluable contribution to upholding the standards of world cricket. Put differently, world cricket will surely be poorer without a strong South Africa.