January 14, 2000

Cullinan quits as one-day player as SA plan for the future

No one can accuse Daryll Cullinan of failing to get his timing right last night when he announced his limited-overs career was over and that it was time South Africa did something about launching plans for the 2003 World Cup.

He may not have played the right shot when he lost his wicket on the first day of the fifth Test in this Millennium Series against England at SuperSport Park yesterday, but he does have a touch for the dramatic for the way he said it was time to quit from all slogs events and allow others a chance to get in on the act.

Just the sort of magnanimous gesture from a delightfully entertaining player whose enigmatic batting style is as equally full of surprise as his realisation that it was not only time to move on but also spend more time with the family. It was also nice to hear Dr Ali Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board, verbally applauding the sort of unselfish move which has any number of immediate ramifications as the national selectors tonight sit down to discuss the side for the triangular international limited-overs bash starting at the Wanderers on Friday. That is when South Africa meet Zimbabwe. Along with Hansie Cronje's own discussions with Dr Bacher about South Africa's long-term plans with formation of a squad for the 2003 event, Cullinan's move allows Rushdi Magiet's panel a chance to throw around a few ideas.

It should be an interesting meeting as the six, perhaps an unwieldy number but South Africa, going through a unique unity as well as identity process, are expected to discuss the idea put forward by Cronje as well as find a replacement for Cullinan.

Apart from opening the way for names such as Pieter Strydom and Dale Benkenstein to be considered, Neil McKenzie, who has batted well enough this season to take three big half-centuries off the England XI attack, and new-comer James Bryant a chance to be considered.

While Cullinan's realistic approach to his future is one which others may take a longer-term view, he felt that as he would be 36 by the time the 2003 tournament is held in south Africa there would be no place for him in the team.

Rather than hang on and bow out a touch disgruntled, Cullinan was not scared to admit it really was "time to go and concentrate on his Test and domestic first-class career" and let others forge a slogs career. "I do now believe it is time for the young, really exciting players who are competitive and dying to get out there and play and challenge for places in the next World Cup," he commented.

It was this sort of honesty which deserves recognition from South Africa and the national selectors. They had axed him from the side which went to Kenya after the World Cup and then scuttled for cover after a broadside from an enquiring media.

Cronje went to see Dr Bacher before the Newlands Test when the weather was more palatable than we have had in Gauteng for this last Test of the series with dripping skies and chilly winds. "At some time, whether it be now, in six months or even a year's time, we have to start assembling a one-day squad which would be available to play in the next World Cup," were Cronje's thoughtful message to Dr Bacher. This message was relayed by Dr Bacher to Magiet, who supported the idea.

"They are meeting (tonight) and are to discuss this particular issue. There is no doubt there is going to come a time when they will put together a squad of those one-day international players who will be available in 2003," said Dr Bacher.

Cronje wants to see a team, whether he is part of it or not, of players who have a minimum of 51 one-day international games behind them. This should make them hardened players; the sort who would go out and produce the granite-style Steve Waugh approach to the game. You need to put a team into the field which has similar hardened attitudes.

If we get this message right, and it comes from the current captain, the players in the squad need to be able to handle tough, hard boiled situations. As it is Allan Donald, who plans to reveal all tonight, Jonty Rhodes and even Gary Kirsten might not be around in 2003, although Kirsten could be in the selectors thinking if his form is right.

As Cullinan put it, there are a number of "exciting young players, all hungry for success and to do well" and it was time to step aside and allow them to do what they can to make their imprint in the limited-overs game.

It takes a lot for a player such as Cullinan to admit it is time to step aside, and sure family commitments were another, important factor in making the decision. Which means finding another number four for the slog events and you cannot blame the selectors for having experimented in Kenya last September. They knew something others did not, took the flak like real troopers and moved on.

The announcement of this one day side is going to be interesting for it could also spell the end of Rhodes' career as a slogs player, especially as the hamstring problem which kept him out of this last Test, is still a niggling problem. Donald, too, may be given a "holiday" although that is all so much speculation. Donald, as Cronje suggests, is no doubt kicking himself for being at least 10 wickets short his mark by this stage of the summer; he managed three against Zimbabwe instead of at least 12 or more.

What we are likely to be told is that he is going to miss the Tests in Sri Lanka later in the year and perhaps play in India after all. There has been a suggestion he does no want to play on the Asian sub-continent again and bowl on their unforgiving pitches. But the lure of those 10 wickets to make up the 300 might be a persuasive argument to play in India.

Perhaps we are seeing the end of the road for a couple of players in this series as family commitments need more attention as priorities and focus change.

On a sadder note, the England side wore black armbands today in memory of Phil Carrick the popular Yorkshire player who died yesterday of leukemia. Apart from leading Yorkshire, South African fans will remember his performances for for Eastern Province and Northerns. A fine player who fell just short of Test selection, he was also on the first class umpires list before his premature death.