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SA players choose IPL over Bangladesh Tests but Proteas at full strength for ODIs

SA players choose IPL over Bangladesh Tests but Proteas at full strength for ODIs
Kagiso Rabada bowling during the 3rd day of the 2nd Test between South Africa and India at the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg on 05 January 2022. Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

The Proteas’ leading players have chosen club over country for the Test series against Bangladesh, but they will play in the ODI series.

South Africa will be at full strength for the one-day international (ODI) series against Bangladesh starting on 18 March, but they will be without an entire team of stars for the Tests that follow. 

That’s after leading players made the collective decision to honour their lucrative club contracts in the Indian Premier League (IPL), which overlaps with the two-Test series against Bangladesh. 

The red ball team will be without its entire first-choice seam attack for the series. Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen, who featured against India and New Zealand over the summer, are IPL-bound. So too is Anrich Nortje, whose hip injury has kept him out of the Proteas team all season. 

Batters Rassie van der Dussen and Aiden Markram are also headed for India, meaning more than half the first choice Proteas’ Test team is unavailable for the Bangladesh series. To say it would be testing the Proteas’ fragile depth is like saying Rabada bowls well. 

Rabada, the heart of the Proteas fast-bowling unit, was bought by the Punjab Kings for R18.7-million. He’d be sacrificing a huge amount of income to stay and play for the Proteas at the expense of his IPL commitments. 

Rabada’s annual Proteas contract is worth about R4-million, so choosing to play against Bangladesh instead of the IPL would make no financial sense. 

The strength of the IPL is recognised in Cricket South Africa’s (CSA’s) own legislation. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between CSA and the South African Cricketers’ Association (Saca) recognises the IPL window. It’s the only international tournament that carries this status in CSA legislation. 

The MOU makes a clear provision that players can be released for IPL duty at CSA’s discretion. CSA could demand that players stay, but the reality is that CSA needs to retain a healthy working relationship with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, and pulling players out of the IPL would not achieve that outcome. 

The other aspect is that CSA receives compensation from the IPL for the time the players are away in the form of about 10% of the contract fee. So in Rabada’s case, CSA will earn R1.8-million for the seven weeks he’s unavailable for the Proteas. 

It doesn’t help Test captain Dean Elgar, coach Mark Boucher, and the team on the field, but it assists in justifying player absences from a financial standpoint for CSA.

Newly appointed chief executive officer Pholetsi Moseki conceded that the situation was not perfect, but nor was it one that was new or a surprise for CSA. 

“There are many domestic T20 leagues that have affected bilateral tours. Our current MOU with Saca gives CSA the right to refuse a release for a player, but we also support allowing them to join the tournament,” Moseki said. 

“Players involved in the IPL make a lot of money, a source of wealth that’s very good for their post-cricket careers. This issue has always been a very delicate balance.  

“You will remember that we released a few players halfway through a tour by Pakistan because we, as an organisation, understood that livelihoods had to be considered alongside national duty. 

“What I know for a fact is that these players take playing for their country very seriously. If a player chooses to go to the IPL it doesn’t mean that he thinks less of his country. There’s no doubt that this is also a very tough decision to make for the player himself. We’ll always support them while balancing everyone’s interests.” 

Bavuma admits IPL situation is complicated

White ball captain Temba Bavuma is naturally relieved he will have a full-strength team for the three-match ODI series, but admitted that pressure to play in IPL was a distraction the team could have done without. 

The ODIs are on 18, 20 and 23 March, and the first Test starts on 31 March. The second Test is scheduled to end on 12 April. 

The IPL starts on 26 March and runs for two months, although it’s the first three weeks of the most lucrative tournament in cricket that affect the Proteas. 

“Having all your assets at your disposal is something that you would like as a captain,” Bavuma said. “Am I happy? Yes of course, but the situation isn’t an ideal one and from someone who is not affected by this, I would have liked for this to be dealt with a lot earlier and with urgency. 

“The fact that on the eve of when a Test squad will be announced the matter isn’t clear isn’t something that’s ideal. We could have learned from previous years, especially in the Pakistan series where a decision could have been made a little earlier by everyone involved.” 

New faces 

Under the circumstances, the Proteas Test squad named on Thursday is, unsurprisingly, callow. 

Dolphins batter Khaya Zondo has been called up to the Test team for the first time and Lizaad Williams makes a return, while Zubayr Hamza has been forced to withdraw from the Bangladesh tour as a whole (ODIs and Tests) due to personal reasons. 

The gap created gives opportunities to youngsters who have been on the periphery of the national team for a chance at game time. Fast bowler Lutho Sipamla will spearhead the attack with Glenton Stuurman and Wiaan Mulder offering seaming support. Batter Ryan Rickelton will almost certainly earn a first cap while Sarel Erwee, who impressed in the recent Test tour to New Zealand, Duanne Olivier, Simon Harmer and Daryn Dupavillon could all play a role. 

“The loss of the IPL players is not ideal, but we back the CSA system, its ever-growing pipeline and most of all, the players we have selected,” convenor of selectors Victor Mpitsang said. 

“Every member of the team is selected based on the excellence that they have shown over an extended period of time and there is no better opportunity for them than now, to show us what they have to offer the Proteas on this highly anticipated occasion.” 

Proteas Test squad vs Bangladesh

Dean Elgar (captain), Temba Bavuma (vice-captain) Daryn Dupavillon, Sarel Erwee, Simon Harmer, Keshav Maharaj, Wiaan Mulder, Duanne Olivier, Keegan Petersen, Ryan Rickelton, Lutho Sipamla, Glenton Stuurman, Kyle Verreynne (wicket-keeper), Lizaad Williams, Khaya Zondo. DM

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