No. 1 on the field, not quite off it

South Africa had a satisfactory year, but the financial shortfall of an abbreviated India series and a light schedule for 2014 could spell trouble
Firdose Moonda January 3, 2014

South Africa's challenge in 2014 will be to find a worthy replacement for Jacques Kallis in the Test side © Getty Images

As in life, in cricket the best part often comes right at the end. That was South Africa's year in 2013 - an inverted pyramid that began with more fixtures than it ended with, but the most important ones came last.

The Test team spent all 12 months at No. 1 to extend their run to 19 months. They won three of the four series they played, beating New Zealand, Pakistan and India at home. The drawn rubber in the UAE against Pakistan meant South Africa's unbeaten series streak on the road lengthened to eight years. They were last defeated in a series away from home in Sri Lanka in July-August 2006 and are not due to play away until July 2014.

Their successes were underpinned by consistency in selection in the longest format. However, that will change with the retirement of Jacques Kallis. Although not as worshipped or as flamboyant as other greats who retired recently, his absence will do to South Africa what the exits of Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting did to India and Australia.

Plugging the gap will be South Africa's biggest Test challenge in the next year. As will fielding a black African in the Test XI, which has now gone three years without a representative from the country's biggest demographic group; pressure is growing for that to change.

In limited-overs cricket, South Africa can look back on a topsy-turvy 2013 with satisfaction, because flaws cruelly exposed at the Champions Trophy, where they crashed out in the semis, were eventually worked out. Of the 29 ODIs they played, they won 14 and lost 13, with important victories coming as the year ended. After series losses to New Zealand and Pakistan at home, and crushing defeats in Sri Lanka, there were worries over the make-up of the 50-over squad, particularly its batting line-up.

The opening pair has been firmed up, the middle order has settled down and there are options lower down. The bowling unit has also been through changes, with the long-term return of Dale Steyn the most important addition.

Steyn has also committed himself to the T20 squad, which has taken shape ahead of the World Twenty20. Faf du Plessis led them to series wins in Sri Lanka and Dubai and a drawn rubber at home. Combinations have been found and preparations are considered almost complete, as the search for a major trophy continues.

Beyond the boundary, Cricket South Africa faced boardroom issues that centred on the appointment of Haroon Lorgat as CEO. The eventual cost of choosing the man whom Chris Nenzani, CSA president, called the best candidate for the job was a severely shortened series against India. That brought with it financial losses of up to R200 million (US$20 million). The impact that shortfall will have on South African cricket in the long-term may start to show from next year and it is likely that development will be the first area to suffer.

For a country that has established itself among the best in the sport worldwide and continues to produce results that justify that label, maintaining strong structures is important. Whether CSA can do that as its reserves diminish may be the most pressing talking point in the future.

High point
Beating India in Durban was a four-in-one bonus for South Africa. It gave them a series win, sent off Kallis in fine style, ensured they won at a ground that had denied them the previous four times they played on it, and erased doubts about their ability to overcome pressure. The Johannesburg Test was a nerve-shattering thriller that showed off Test cricket at its most tense, but the Kingsmead one was an illustration of South Africa's ability to overcome. They faced hurdles in the form of conditions, weather and opposition, and dealt with their own emotions about Kallis' retirement, but overcame it all to end the year with success.

Low point
A shortened India tour was always expected to be an anti-climax and it proved exactly that. The reasons the tour was curtailed are shrouded in mystery. Did South Africa announce the fixtures unilaterally, or was the BCCI just throwing a tantrum? It's clear there is a skewed power structure in world cricket and administrative tussles can directly and dangerously affect the game. That, rather than South Africa's implosion at the Champions Trophy is what should worry fans.

Quinton de Kock steers the ball to the leg side, South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd ODI, Port Elizabeth, November 27, 2013
Quinton de Kock worked on his technical problems to end the year on a record-making note © Getty Images

New kid on the block
Three centuries in consecutive matches put Quinton de Kock in elite company. Only four other batsmen have achieved that feat, including AB de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs. It sealed de Kock's spot in the one-day side ahead of Graeme Smith. After a lean run that was exacerbated by technical problems on slow pitches and against spinners in Sri Lanka, de Kock worked so hard on his game that his franchise coach, Geoffrey Toyana, said he feared de Kock would make him sleep in the nets to give him throwdowns at every available opportunity. Combined with careful mentoring, which included his batting partner telling him to "take it easy" at the end of every over, de Kock blossomed. He paced his innings well, scored freely and hit the ball cleanly. His wicketkeeping skills have also sharpened, and the promise of a successful 2014 beckons.

Farewell to
Paul Harris and Ahmed Amla were among the long-serving players who called it a day in 2013, but the year will be remembered for being Kallis' last as a Test cricketer. He announced his retirement unexpectedly on Christmas Day and left the format six days later on a high. Kallis became the only player with 100-plus Tests to score a century in his final match. He finished with 13,289 runs, 292 wickets and 200 catches - and a reputation as South Africa's best cricketer.

What 2014 holds
Too little cricket. South Africa's schedule for the next 12 months is nothing short of sorry. January is completely bare, which allows the national players to turn out in the domestic T20 competition, but peak summer time should see more than that. Australia's tour of three Tests and three T20s precedes the World Twenty20, and is followed by a lengthy break. The FTP has a tour of Zimbabwe pencilled in for July, but with the financial problems in that country's cricket, it's likely that may be postponed. There's only West Indies to look forward to in the home summer.

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Posted by Sreekanth on (January 6, 2014, 7:05 GMT)

@Albert_cambell - I agree. Infact winning against india only because of the lucky rain interruption on day-1 shows what SA is also a weak team like india and is not deserving of being the no.1. test side.

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 5, 2014, 12:14 GMT)

I don't see the point of mentioning the retirement of Ahmed Amla in this article. He was a long serving provincial player but her NEVER represented the Proteas. His departure means absolutely nothing to the Proteas and is an irrelevant point in this article.

The majority of international readers of this article will not have the faintest idea of an irrelevant Ahmed Amla.

Posted by Gareth on (January 5, 2014, 9:37 GMT)

To be fair, there were few calls for Abbott's selection before his debut if I recall...

As explained FC includes 2nd XI which in most cases severely inflates our players' averages, sometimes a lot. Bavuma is an exception and it's possibly because he mostly played his 2nd XI cricket early in his career. As below, Phangiso is an example of a player with inflated stats. A better one is Wiese (who didn't make the Titans 1st team regularly until very recently, mostly because of Albie Morkel): FC (bat/bowl) 39/27; List A:33/34. Franchise 4-day (Supersport/Sunfoil) 35/37; Franchise LO: 27/54(!). His bowling is severely flattered because of his time in the 2nd team! If you went based on FC average such 2nd team stars as Lucky Pangabantu, BJ Pelser, Pieter Malan, Darryl Brown, Jandre Coetzee, Sisonda Magala, Gurshwin Rabie, Richard Das Neves, Deon Carolus and Divan van Wyk must be all be close to the national team because of their wonderful first-class records...

Posted by ZCF on (January 5, 2014, 6:53 GMT)

@StaalBurgher, there is a significant difference between FC career average(which includes a lot of Provincial cricket at an even younger age&less experience) and Franchise Average. Think County 2nd XI stats vs County Div 1&Eng A stats boet!

You guys need to desist from this mob tendency which writes off anyone outside the "comfort of your predetermined circle of affection" because, for no apparent reason, you'd like to keep the status quo as it is - with zero transformation, even if the players are good enough as options. If that wasn't the case you wouldn't have been blind to @Gareth_Blain's clear statement!

If CSA were to say tomorrow Morne van Wyk will keep, no one would raise any age questions. That applies in the case of Tsolekile. Or that AB is happy keeping if de Kock was picked. Philander topped FC charts for seasons like Abbott is doing recently, but I never heard the same clamours for his selection from you guys as we see in Abbott's case. That's not a mere coincidence!

Posted by Gerald on (January 4, 2014, 20:30 GMT)


Fortunately guys like you can be proven wrong with a simple search on Cricinfo.

Posted by Gareth on (January 4, 2014, 17:00 GMT)

Bavuma averages 44 in franchise cricket... He's not ridiculous.

Posted by Gerald on (January 4, 2014, 16:03 GMT)

Bavuma averages 36 in FC. Don't be ridiculous. Plenty of better players. When he improves that average we can talk again.

Posted by Gareth on (January 4, 2014, 14:59 GMT)

Phangiso's FC figures are inflated by being mostly 2nd team (Gauteng not Lions). For the first (franchise) team he averages 95 with the ball... Leie/Von Berg are the closest thing we have to potential test international spinners. But as others have said, I have the feeling they aren't consistent enough and will fetch! Harmer is yet another defensive spinner in the Shaw/Symcox/Boje/Robin Peterson mold.

Posted by ZCF on (January 4, 2014, 13:25 GMT)

The Proteas will be playing Zimbabwe in Tests next year. If CSA is serious then they should pick a practical side. No one can justifiably argue against this side because in truth it's all much of a muchness with other options.

XI: Rossouw, de Kock, van Zyl, Elgar(vc), Bavuma(c), Tsolekile(wk), Gqamane, Parnell, Abbott, Tsotsobe, Phangiso

As someone pointed out, Bavuma has grown leaps&bounds over the last 3 seasons. He's a very intelligent, confident&mature young man. Has a sharp cricket brain & is definitely a future SA captain. If AB,Amla&Faf can take turns flopping at the role why not him?

Phangiso has already shown to us that he can keep things tight&get wickets at the top level. He's played against ZIM before, and was our best against their top batsmen. Harmer is the future but like RobbieP needs his batting to get the nod at this level. He doesn't strike well enough & it's very easy to get on top of him. The last part applies to Leie as well. He tends to fetch quite a bit.

Posted by Gerald on (January 4, 2014, 13:24 GMT)

@ ZCFOutkast - Tsotsobe played 5 Tests and averages 50 with the ball. The only thing he has going for him is being left handed. He does not have the nip and accuracy of Philander and both are equally slow. Abbott, Hendricks, de Lange, maybe Parnell those are the bowlers that need to be looked to. Morkel doesn't get the new ball either, so why on earth should Tsotsobe get it ahead of Philander/Steyn?

Phangiso's FC career is 35 avg and 67 SR. Not good enough. Rather play Leie, Harmer or von Berg and the latter two bat very well to boot.

Posted by Vaughan on (January 4, 2014, 10:24 GMT)

South Africa needs to play more test cricket- I agree with Gareth_Bain that we are ALWAYS rusty in our first game of any test series-particularly the first two days of the first test against India and also famously against in our last series's against England and Australia).

Foursandsixes: India's recent test wins had very little to do with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma playing so the argument that their main bowlers were tired doesn't really hold much water.

And yes Gqamane is averaging 60 with the ball this season and Phangiso and Tstosobe are not playing sunfoil series cricket so they can all be discounted for national selection. Themba Bavuma is playing well though but Stiaan Van Zyl is looking a colossus at domestic level (and can bowl a little) so should not be ignored much longer

Posted by Blaen on (January 4, 2014, 7:57 GMT)

@Gareth_Bain on (January 3, 2014, 18:50 GMT)

Informative and suitably stern and chastising comment at the same time. That will most probably teach me to do research before posting :=P

Posted by Satish on (January 3, 2014, 21:25 GMT)

Agree with observations that SA have always looked freshest and have most energy and fresh legs, while visiting teams are running out of gas for playing cricket constantly year round. A fit set of bowlers on day 5 of the first test with India and 2nd test could have changed the equation somewhat.

Posted by Ali on (January 3, 2014, 19:49 GMT)

As aslways SA did gud in JAM ODIĀ“s and struggled in ICC tournament. Test series vs Sri Lanka was cancelled by CSA as it could have brought the varegaes of some so called great down as it always has been the case. also the No. Rank was on the edge as they never won in Sri Lanka.

Posted by Gareth on (January 3, 2014, 18:50 GMT)

@Drew: So you're going to completely ignore the fact that we always look out of sorts at the beginning of a series, because we're constantly rusty.

@All: Tsolekile is the best gloveman in the country. He has also averaged over 40 as a batsman since moving to the Lions... So he deservedly in the mix. The way he has been forced to sit on the bench is horrible management. Either let him keep match-fit in local cricket or play him.

Tsotsobe's problem at test level is lack of fitness. Although I've seen him bowling 140+ most days he settles for 125 and relies on variation in ODIs...

Phangiso doesn't even play FC for his franchise!!! Eddie Leie is the first-choice tweaker (who's black before we go down that path) and after that are Das Neves and Dale Deeb. Of course as MrGarreth says very few of us here seem to even follow FC cricket...

Gqamane has got at 10-an-over and taken no wickets every match he played this season so he was dropped by the Warriors. Theron suffered the same ignominy

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 3, 2014, 14:03 GMT)

Doesn't the schedule basically almost guarantee SA the best chance of securing #1 just as it has all the time they have held it? They play less games than any other top team, therefore their bowlers are fresher and their batsmen hungry, while opposition sides are suffering injuries or tiredness from the test schedule.

The rankings system favours teams that play less. So I wouldn't be surprised to see SA finish on top at the end of the year because they've played the least amount of cricket.

Posted by Wesley on (January 3, 2014, 13:55 GMT)

Tsolikele is surplus to requirements, AB has no interest in dropping the gloves not after all the work he has put into it and the fact his batting has gone up there is no reason to suggest its unmanageable. What AB taking the gloves did meant we could play the extra batsmen or bowler alternatively all rounder instead of carrying an aging Boucher along. Tsolikele is the wrong player for the wrong position, but if he can out bat AB then I won't be unhappy can't see a 34 year old as upside really.

Tsotsobe got his chance at test match level and was largely unpenetrative, didn't swing the ball and bowled gun barrel straight military medium with no seam movement, I am sorry quotas or not he is below test level, De Lange, Abbott, Hendricks, Viljoen all have more upside than Tsotsobe for the longer game. Mock Morkel all you want, he was the leading wicket taker on flat pitches in Australia and he was our most effective bowler at the Wanderers, he offers more than just wickets.

Posted by Marius on (January 3, 2014, 13:02 GMT)

@ZFCOutkast Tsotsobe hasn't played a FC match in nearly two years. So, there is either a massive conspiracy against Tsotsobe by SA cricket (unlikely), he doesn't want to play the longer format, or there are questions about his fitness in longer matches.

The final is probably the right hypothesis. There have been a number of questions around Tsotsobe's work ethic, when he went to play Country cricket and within the Proteas setup.

This is the third time I'm trying to join this interesting conversation, but neither of my other comments have been allowed through. Let's hope it's a case of third time lucky.

Posted by ZCF on (January 3, 2014, 12:33 GMT)

@Bowlersholding, express pace is not a factor when you have the right skills to make it work. Tsotsobe is FM&can regularly hit 138kph, which is more than Philander on average&a lot of Test seamers doing the rounds. His swing, bounce&high release action at his pace is effective. What we want is productivity, & productive is what Morkel is not! 61,57&72 SRs over the last 3yrs is unacceptable! The bottom line is Tsotsobe has looked a class above Morkel almost everytime we've seen them share the ball. I think secretly a lot of you guys fear Tsotsobe will be succesful with the new ball in Tests, that's why you don't want him there. Nothing more. If he was doing this well in LOIs for any other Test nation, even if Morkel was playing for that side in Tests, Tsotsobe would've long replaced him! I needn't dig up the archives in just about every one of the common breeding grounds for you naysayers, in the online SA news media forums, to remind you what all&sundry said when Philander was picked.

Posted by Blaen on (January 3, 2014, 12:27 GMT)

ZCFOutkast is making a good point with regard to Tsolikile and Phangiso. They should have been tried at least and then people can say yea or nay. Can they do any worse?

The problem with black cricketers in SA is that Makhaya Ntini (brilliant as he was) set the bar to high with the effect that everyone got compared to him. It was almost like you had to be better than Makhaya to make the team.

Thats why Ayabulelo Gqamane looks so awsome! He's been working with the High Performance center with Vincent barnes and together Hendricks, Abbot, De Lange, will form the new pace stocks of SA. But Gqamane is not ready yet! Remember Steyn was thrust into the SA line up relatively young, got smacked around and then got dropped.

We have lots of pace bowlers averaging < 25 in FC. Morkel ave 30. I don't think you can justify Morkel's place fact, he needs to be put on notice and told that there are youngsters nipping at his heels.

Posted by Sudhakar on (January 3, 2014, 11:06 GMT)

South Africa has had a fantastic run of late, and unlike some of their world number 1 predecessors, they have lived at the top for sometime. What I like about South African cricket is their unassuming nature - a classic example is how Jacques Kallis is projected. It's SA's unassuming coach who took India to the number one spot too. It's clear that their fundamentals are strong and clear. A change I would like to see though is that SA should not have a quota system, and have a system wherein more coloured players make it to the SA team purely based on their merit / talent.

Posted by Faan on (January 3, 2014, 9:01 GMT)

@ZCFOutkast Agreed that Phangiso should be given a chance, given the quality of the current spinners. Comparing Morkel and Tsotsobe in tests does not make sense, would choose Parnell any day ahead of Tsotsobe because of his pace and all round ability. Tsolekile is most probably the best replacement for now if AB decides he does not want to keep - De Kock needs more FC experience. The point is that the writer suggests that someone should be included due to 'pressure'.

Posted by ZCF on (January 3, 2014, 7:39 GMT)

Wayne what are you on about? There is absolutely no reason to suggest that Tsotsobe would not have performed better than Morkel over the last 3 years, neither is there reason to suggest that Tsolekile would not have done well enough with the bat considering the likes of Boucher before him, then Faf, JP, Elgar & Alviro have all had horribbly low returns with the bat along the way.

Likewise in terms of wickets taken&economy, Phangiso would have done just as well as RobbieP&Tahir have. It's not as if they've set the world alight. They cannot contain at all, and cannot take wickets to an acceptable level for frontline spinners. That's what you would say of Aaron before he even gets picked, well , that's what those two have been since being picked!

Gqamane was red hot not so long ago but wasn't even selected for any FC XI A sides. Each time a limping Marchant&Parnell were selected ahead of him only to get pasted alongside the other seamers. This has nothing to do with being "good enough"!

Posted by Garreth on (January 3, 2014, 7:35 GMT)

I think the real wake up call (for all nations that aren't India) is to stop depending on the BCCI's revenue to keep their boards alive. As a proud Proteas supporter, this has been a real shock to me. Call me ignorant but I did not have even the slightest idea of the extent that an Indian tour to our shores funds our cricket. But what is clear is that this has to change to at least a certain extent. It starts with our domestic game which seems to get very little help. The Sunfoil Series doesn't even get any form of advertising or PR. You can stroll through the gate. It's almost like they've just assumed no one will come so why bother? When I tell my friends about the Sunfoil Series, they don't know what on earth I'm talking about. And this coming from cricket fans! Not even the LAs are looked after. Only the Ram Slam is given a push. And the PR and marketing is poor there too. CSA needs to be more hands on. We should be generating our own revenue that is attractive to those overseas.

Posted by Corne on (January 3, 2014, 7:33 GMT)

Politics will be the end of Cricket in SA. Between the BCCI and quotas AsA will once again drop back to the pack, add revenue shortfalls and the struggle would become too great to sustain a top team.

Posted by Faan on (January 3, 2014, 6:38 GMT)

If South Africa picks a team based on political interference (again - like in Australia 2002) the ICC should take steps. This is what FIFA would do. There must be standards.

Posted by Android on (January 3, 2014, 6:14 GMT)

@Albert_cambell: dude this mediocre team has a cricket board which control give some respect to other team when you know that your team was under pressure for most of the time....

Posted by Faan on (January 3, 2014, 6:11 GMT)

@Wayne Perry Completely agree. No other side in the world could be forced to pick a player not based on performance. It is basic. It is wrong.

Posted by Phillip on (January 3, 2014, 5:07 GMT)

@Charith99-Your Lanka struggled to beat Bangladesh at home.Right now they are getting thrashed in the U.A.E.What makes you think Africa would lose here?Their loss here nearly 8 yrs ago?ODI form

Posted by yuvraj on (January 3, 2014, 5:05 GMT)

I dont know why the author lists beating a mediocre team like India at home as our high point of the year. I think this should be our lowpoint of the year , since we failed to whitewash a weak team like India at home.

Posted by Charith on (January 3, 2014, 4:28 GMT)

If they had played test cricket in Sri Lanka their record would have being very different.

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 3, 2014, 2:51 GMT)

"As will fielding a black African in the Test XI, which has now gone three years without a representative from the country's biggest demographic group. Pressure is growing for that to change."

If S Africa select a Black African cricket in their test XI not on performances, that in itself can unbalance their team and upset their aim to achieve greater things as a # 1 team.

Currently no Black African is performing good enough in S Africa domestic cricket to be worth a test place. This is very clear.

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