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Heinrich Klaasen announces Test retirement after just four games

Heinrich Klaasen announces Test retirement after just four games
Heinrich Klaasen, who played only four Tests for the Proteas, will pursue a white-ball career. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

After less than a handful of international matches in Proteas whites, wicketkeeper-batter Heinrich Klaasen has called time on his Test career.

Proteas wicketkeeper-batter Heinrich Klaasen on Monday announced his retirement from Test cricket.

Klaasen’s Titans teammate Dean Elgar also recently announced his retirement from the format. 

The 32-year-old Klaasen played four Tests in total, averaging 13, including two last year against West Indies.  

“After a few sleepless nights wondering if I am making the right decision, I have decided to retire from red-ball cricket. It’s a difficult decision that I have made because it is by far my favourite format of the game,” Klaasen said in a statement released by Cricket South Africa. 

“The battles that I faced on and off the field have made me the cricketer I am today. It has been a great journey and I am glad I could have represented my country. 

“My baggy Test cap is the most precious cap I have ever been handed. 

“Thanks to everyone that has played a part in my red-ball career and shaped me into the cricketer I am today. But for now, a new challenge awaits and I am looking forward to it.”  

Klaasen was not selected for South Africa’s recent drawn Test series against India. Kyle Verreynne was the wicketkeeper. However, at the announcement of the squad at the start of December, Test head coach Shukri Conrad said he had plans for Klaasen to play in the West Indies and Bangladesh later this year — traditionally spin-friendly conditions suited to the destructive batter. 

Heinrich Klaasen

Heinrich Klaasen during day one of the second Test between South Africa and West Indies at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on 8 March 2023. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

‘Little disappointed’ 

Faf du Plessis, speaking at the SA20 captains’ day on Monday, said that not playing red-ball cricket would open Klaasen’s calendar up to play more T20 cricket across the globe — like Du Plessis himself currently does. 

“He’ll probably be a little disappointed by not being in the Test plans and then probably a little unsure of where he is and that just gave him a bit of clarity,” the Joburg Super Kings skipper said. 

“His white-ball game has done this. He’s one of the most destructive T20 players in the world right now. 

“So, he probably just thinks that that’s where he wants to spend his time and energy and instead of playing four-day cricket domestically and not having that time to go and do T20 cricket around the world. I think it makes sense. 

“If he was playing in the national side, I think it would have been more of a surprise. 

“But if you’re not in the mix and you’re playing something so well on the other side it just makes sense.” 

Klaasen steps away from domestic red-ball cricket, where he played 85 first-class matches, amassing 5,347 runs at an average of 46.09, including 12 hundreds and a career-best of 292 for the Titans. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cricket South Africa aiming to increase player pool with hybrid contracts

Sunrisers Eastern Cape captain Aiden Markram said he understood players, in the twilight of their careers, electing to focus on playing in global T20 leagues. 

“I suppose the older guys, maybe towards the back end of their careers, then the financial decisions also make sense,” he said. 

Busy schedules

Markram, who was in excellent form for the Proteas in 2023, noted that playing T20I, ODI and Test cricket as well as playing in T20 leagues across the world can be gruelling. 

“I think guys may look at it from their individual position as all three format players and make their own decisions, based on that,” Markram told journalists. 

“It is a lot of cricket if you’re playing all formats as we’ve seen now; you don’t get much time to rest. 

“But while you still have the energy and the motivation and the excitement to turn up, day in and day out, I think you should stretch it for as long as you can. 

Faf du Plessis, seen here playing for the Scorchers in the Big Bash league, understands why Heinrich Klaasen would sacrifice Test cricket at this stage in his career. (Photo: Paul Kane / Getty Images)

Heinrich Klaasen’s teammate Aiden Markram said: ‘I think guys may look at it from their individual position as all three format players and make their own decisions, based on that.’ (Photo: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images)

“The schedules are busy there, there are lots of leagues and then obviously lots of international cricket. 

“So probably the most ideal world would be for players and the international boards to see how best to manage players. 

“I would assume that that could be a solution going forward to maybe then reduce the amount of guys pulling out of individual formats. 

“It’s still quite new in the world at the moment and hopefully over this next year, we can pave a good way forward.” 

Du Plessis believes that there is a world where Test cricket and T20 leagues can thrive together; however, the third format of the game might have to be sacrificed to find time in the cricket calendar. 

“It’s the amount of competitions that has come up, that’s a challenge for the FTP [Future Tours Programme],” Du Plessis, who retired from Test cricket in 2021 said. 

“The way that cricket is structured throughout the season … especially India has to play against all the countries because that is where the money is taken from. 

“I don’t think [T20 leagues] should be at the expense of Test cricket. Like everything, it needs to evolve so it can coexist in a place where Test cricket and T20 cricket still live. 

“Probably one-day cricket will be the format that will have to sacrifice a little bit because I think Test cricket is really important. It’s important to us purists of the game.” DM

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