Faf du Plessis during South Africa's training and press conference ahead of the Third Test against India at the JSCA International Cricket Stadium in Ranchi, India on 17 October 2019 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Would the Proteas players benefit from playing in next week’s round of Four-Day series matches?

There’s so much going on in South African cricket right now - the majority of it bad - that asking that question seems stupid. 

It feels like the sport is at a crossroads. To the two court cases that Cricket SA have been dragged into, on Wednesday the South African Cricketers Association - the players union - added a dispute. That is to do with the players’ image rights, their use in last year’s Mzansi Super League and the fact that according to Saca, they players haven’t been paid for the use of those image rights, despite Cricket SA agreeing to do so.

There are concerns - and rightly so - about the leadership of Cricket South Africa. And if this country’s administrators aren’t shaken by the fact that their own players have taken them to the High Court - and they really should be worried - then a look at the power of players was given in Bangladesh this week.

Players in that country, led by its most well known cricketer Shakib Al-Hasan, went on strike demanding better pay, among 11 grievances submitted to the sport’s authorities in that country. The strike lasted two days before a meeting with Bangladesh Cricket’s administrators saw it called off.

Saca have always maintained that going on strike would be a last resort for this country’s players, but it has certainly been discussed and the fact that that has happened should make Cricket SA wary.

But what of the game on the field? The Proteas returned to the country this morning, battered and bruised after a mauling in India. Their next assignment together is the Boxing Day Test against England in Centurion.

Before that, there is one more round of Four-Day Franchise Series matches that starts on Monday. After that, for most of the players, it’s the Mzansi Super League T20 tournament, for five weeks up to December 16.

So that is one first class match between now and a Test match against England - who will be coming off a two-Test series in New Zealand, meaning its players will have played more first class cricket than the Proteas in the two months before the Boxing Day Test.

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It’s crucial the players do turn out for their franchises next week, for their own psyche as much as anything else. Remember, this is a Proteas side that is currently on a five match losing streak in the Test format. No-one in that team has a right to anything. So much is set to change around the national team in the next few weeks - with the appointment of a Director of Cricket, followed possibly by a new Head Coach and a chairman of selectors - that no-one who has played for the Proteas this year can afford to rest on his laurels.

The Proteas need to pull on the whites of their franchise teams as a sign to everyone that they are serious about turning around their own fortunes but also to Cricket South Africa as an example of the kinds of necessary and urgent steps that need to be taken to drag the sport in this country out of the quagmire it finds itself in.

@shockerhess


The Star

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