South Africa have awarded national contracts to Aiden Markram and Lungi Ngidi for the 2018-19 season, while dropping Farhaan Behardien, Stephen Cook, Wayne Parnell and Aaron Phangiso. Morne Morkel, who will retire after the ongoing Test series against Australia was also excluded from the list.
The total list has been cut from 21 players to 18 and applies to away tours to Sri Lanka and Australia, home series against Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and the 2019 World Cup.
Chiefly, the new contract list provides some certainty over the futures of South Africa's senior players, many of whom were thought to be considering retirement at the end of current Australia Test series. AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla have been re-contracted along with Dale Steyn, who only played one match in the previous contract period.
Steyn spent 13 months recovering from a shoulder injury between November 2016 and January 2017 before making his comeback in the New Year's Test against India. He did not complete the match after picking up a heel injury and has been recovering since. He is expected to return for the third Test against Australia later this month but there remains uncertainty over his white-ball role. Coach Ottis Gibson had earlier suggested Steyn needed to play franchise limited-overs cricket before he would be considered for the World Cup squad.
South Africa's contracted player list appears to be focused on the tournament with Imran Tahir and JP Duminy likely to use it as a swansong. Behardien has not been given that same guarantee, both on paper and the field. He only played one of the six ODIs against India despite featuring among the top run-scorers in the domestic one-day cup, has not been contracted and it is unclear what his role may be going forward. His replacement, Khaya Zondo, was also not contracted.
Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo are the only two white-ball allrounders contracted with Parnell seemingly completely out of the picture. He has not played international cricket since the series against Bangladesh in October last year and has not featured at franchise level since January 12, almost two months ago.
In Test terms, Dean Elgar and Vernon Philander are the only two contractees who feature in the longer-format only, though both have indicated they would like that to change. Temba Bavuma is also considered a Test player only, though he has played two ODIs.
Markram, with seven caps to his name in both Tests and ODIs, makes up one half of South Africa future investment, with Ngidi the other. The pair both debuted in the 2017-18 summer and have enjoyed early success. Markram is being touted as a future leader across all formats, has three centuries in his first seven Tests and led South Africa in ODIs against India, while Ngidi has been tipped to take over from Morkel in Tests.
Contracted 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.