South African cricket needs a new start after a disastrous 2019 to date, having lost the two-Test series against Sri Lanka, the worst Cricket World Cup in history and now a loss to India without really competing. The signs of the demise of the Proteas have been evident for a while and now the national team has imploded. This will probably not be the end of the pain as they still need to play England and Australia later this summer.
The solution to the problems is lifting the standard of domestic cricket as it is the feeder to the national team. Faf du Plessis in his post-match interview after the second Test in India alluded to the fact that the domestic system is not producing the quality and depth that is required to keep the Proteas competitive internationally.
The implementation of the new provincial system from the 2020/21 season provides the ideal opportunity for a new dawn provided that it is a two-tier system of strength versus strength.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) need to change its selection policy and look to select domestic teams on merit. A good start would be the eight places that are normally reserved for coloured, Indian and white players to be based on merit selection only. The African community realistically is lagging behind in cricket development and cricket culture. A quota of two players is necessary to enhance opportunities and growth of African players. This will then bring the merit selection positions to nine. It will ensure a much stronger domestic system, like we saw in the Mzansi Super League.
The problem with the quotas is not the quality of the players of colour but getting the right cricketing balance for the teams to ensure that standards are maintained and enhanced. CSA need not be scared of starting to implement a merit selection policy as the pool of players of colour is strong and the black players are improving all the time. It will be in the interest of South African cricket if teams are picked on merit and domestic cricket is strong, producing quality future international players.
CSA also need to address the selection policies of their immediate feeder system, the South Africa ‘A’ and South Africa U.19 teams. The performances of these teams over the last four years have been very disappointing and certainly haven’t contributed to a winning culture for South African cricket. Once again a merit selection policy combined with realistic opportunity selection is needed for a strong national team.
The coaching system at all levels also needs to be re-visited, as most of the coaches and assistants filling these position have little or no profile or representative experience. In the meantime South Africa has at least ten coaches and assistants coaching international and T20 teams around the world. CSA should look to try and accommodate some of these coaches in the South African system to ensure the upliftment of standards.
If CSA do not look to uplift the standard of domestic cricket and coaching the current free-fall will continue. Poor results on the field will lead to commercial decline and these two combined will be a poisoned chalice for South African cricket. The whole future of South African cricket is about lifting standards, like the England Cricket Board did in the 2000’s with the “MacLaurin Report”.