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Cricket: Introspection time for SA’s T20 Champions League contenders

South Africa’s Champions League representatives will return home with dismal returns and before their domestic season officially begins, it’s time for some serious introspection from both sides. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

Those who believe that T20 cricket is irrelevant, look away now. The Champions League T20 currently being played in India has yielded some mixed results for a number of teams and a number of players, but there have been some important lessons for the South African sides.

South Africa’s two contenders – the Cobras and the Dolphins – will exit the tournament before the big money starts to spin. Yes, they’ll have earned a minor sum from simply participating as well as losing some of their players to IPL franchises, but the real cash is now beyond their reach. The Dolphins have one more game to play, having lost all their other three games, while the Cobras will return with just one win (in a Super Over) from four outings. Results aside, it will be a time of introspection for both sides as they now begin preparation for the South African domestic season.

Those questions begin with the use of so-called “quota players”. Early signs of CSA’s transformation policies (which state that a franchise must field at least five players of colour, of whom two must be black Africans) have had mixed results. For the Dolphins, Khaya Zondo is one of the players who meet the “quota”. Zondo is an apt batsman and has been working his way through the various ranks of professional cricket for the last few years. He certainly is talented, and the fact that he was one of the Dolphins’ top scorers will highlight that. While the Dolphins’ yield overall was poor, the early signs are that Zondo will be worth the effort and investment of the new scheme. Still, that’s something that was already known and he is a player who would have progressed anyway. On that basis, he is not a direct beneficiary of a “quota” appointment, but because of his race, this label will linger over his head whenever he steps out to bat this season.

Andile Phehlukwayo is the other black African recruit, straight from the Under-19 ranks. He had a fair run during the Under-19 World Cup, but has had nothing more than modest returns in the Champions League. Phehlukwayo is not even 19 years old yet, but now he has already been burdened with a kind of expectation most players in the world never have to face. Not only has he been given a professional baptism by fire, but he also has additional pressures of needing to prove himself because of the colour of his skin. This cannot be good in the long run. Quotas can be a reasonable solution, but in situations like the Champions League, the additional pressure they lump upon young players simply is not worth it. The Cobras, too, have had their relatively new recruits tested to the max. Omphile Ramela and Aviwe Mgijima both struggled, but no more than their teammates. For all of these players, it is still too early to say whether the expanded quotas will have a detrimental effect on both their careers as well as the performances of their teams. However, it’s important to ponder whether the Champions League was the place to pilot the new rules before South Africa’s domestic season begins.

What is clear is that these men alone cannot be blamed for the failings of the two sides. Both the Cobras and the Dolphins looked out of their depth. Sure, many of these players have not had any sort of cricketing action for some time, but the returns were expected to be far better than this.

The Dolphins also have to think what to do with Prenelan Subrayen, who was reported for suspect action. Although it had no immediate impact on his ability to play cricket, Subrayen’s action has been problematic for quite some time. With the ICC on an anti-chucking crusade, these kinds of things will happen far more often. Right now, it’s not a big problem, but it’s vital that the Dolphins assess Subrayen’s action and decide whether he needs to start thinking about changing it.

In the greater scheme of things, the most concerning has been the death bowling by both teams. This is something the national team has struggled with in recent times, too.

Why, in a country with such a wealth of bowling talent, are teams not able to hold their nerve and execute their plans when they matter most? If it cannot even be done by domestic veterans, how on earth are the national players supposed to get it right? It’s not something that has reached crisis levels just yet, but with a World Cup coming up next year, a plan of action is needed for both the short-term and the future of death bowling.

For some players, there will be a fair bit of time to step back and assess the failings in India. For those who aren’t on international duty, the domestic season will not begin until the one-day competition begins in October. If ever there were a time for introspection, it’s now. DM

Photo: Bangalore Royal Challengers’ Roelof van der Merwe is stumped by Deccan Chargers captain Adam Gilchrist (R) during their Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 final cricket match in Johannesburg May 24, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings


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