DURBAN - There was a deeper cull than usual when Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced their nationally contracted squad list for the 2018/19 season.
Breakthrough stars Aiden Markram and Lungi Ngidi have been handed their first national contracts, after promising performances in the past few months.
Amongst the names missing from the previous list of players were Stephen Cook, Aaron Phangiso, Farhaan Behardien and Wayne Parnell, while middle-order batsman Theunis de Bruyn continues to be left out in the cold, despite becoming a regular squad member.
De Bruyn remains a part of the current Test squad against Australia, though his place in the starting XI for the second Test starting on Friday was again dependant on the fitness of Temba Bavuma, who has made good progress on his recovery from a hand injury.
The will he/won’t he situation of De Bruyn playing is much the same as his contract situation, as he remains the only player in the team that played the opening Test at Kingsmead without a cap.
Youngster Wiaan Mulder is also not on the list, though his injury this season probably didn’t help his cause.
For the likes of Parnell and Phangiso, the snub may be the beginning of the end of their international careers, after nearly a decade in the elevated list of names paid by the cricket body.
Phangiso has become an increasingly peripheral figure in limited-overs cricket for South Africa, as too has the inconsistent Parnell.
Behardien, meanwhile, has seen himself fall out of favour in recent months, and he must wonder if his days are numbered, too.
In previous years, CSA have also compiled a list of players who fall short of full national contracts, but get a ‘bump-up’ on top of their franchise contract, which is generally seen as a reward for knocking on the door for higher honours.
As belts continue to tighten at CSA, they have done away with that show of encouragement, and those who are not on the national list will make do with franchise contracts, which can now be finalised after the announcement by the parent body.
Significantly, the 2018/19 contract period spans right through to the conclusion of the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales, and could be the last national contracts signed by several, big-name players.
Dale Steyn, a perennial injury casualty over the past two years, has again been retained, with an eye to the World Cup. Steyn continues his anticipated return to top-flight action, which he is expected to step up considerably in the next fortnight.
CSA contracted Proteas players
Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Imran Tahir, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn.