South Africa's next selection panel, which should be finalised at CSA's board meeting on Tuesday, may need a greater talent pool to choose the national team from, according to outgoing convener Andrew Hudson. South Africa has six franchise teams but Hudson, who spent five years in the job and did not make himself available for reappointment, indicated that two more teams would provide better options, especially in light of the transformation policy.
"The guidelines have always been there and we have always adhered to them so that's not an issue. But what you want is to be giving the selectors a lot of talent, which is as diverse as possible," Hudson told ESPNcricinfo. "For me, there are too few franchises. We only have 66 players in action every week. I think it would be better to have 88, so we can expose more players to franchise cricket."
Apart from the franchise structure, South Africa has a second-tier of domestic cricket - a semi-professional set-up - which consists of 13 provincial teams that feed into the franchises. As part of CSA's commitment to transformation, which was reaffirmed when CEO Haroon Lorgat signed an agreement with the South Africa's sports ministry last week, both the franchise and provincial teams have targets about the number of players of colour they must field in order to get the national team to a state in which it is 50% transformed, although there is no deadline for reaching the national team's target.
For the 2015-16 season, franchises must field at least six players of colour of which three must be black African. That will give the national selectors at least 36 players of colour, of which 18 are black African, to choose from for the national team. In the 2014-15 season, franchises fielded at least five players of colour, of which two were required to be black African, and the results of that process are evident in national selections.
Hudson's final task was to oversee the selection of the South African squad to Bangladesh and the A side to India. South Africa's Test squad included seven players of colour of which three were black African, the ODI squad also had seven players of colour with two black Africans, while the T20 squad had six players of colour, which included two black Africans. The South Africa A four-day squad had eight players of colour, with three black Africans, and the fifty-over squad had nine players of colour of which five are black African.
Analysing squads in those black and white terms, so to speak, creates the danger of labeling some players as quota choices. To guard against that relationship between the selection panel and players is crucial and Hudson hopes his successor will nurture that. "A lot of selection is around managing the players," Hudson said. "The panel needs to be close to the players and needs to support the team. That's what the players deserve."
That closeness is something Hudson said he worked on during his tenure, in which he was always willing to explain his choices. He did so for the last time when asked about the squads to Bangladesh, in which South Africa picked four new faces in the Test squad, stuck to a familiar looking 50-over outfit, and had one new player in the T20 side.
"The formats are all at different stages which made this an exciting group to pick," Hudson said. "The Test side is fairly settled but there are a few key changes, the one-day side has a fair amount of time to build for the 2019 World Cup and the T20 squad is eight months away from a World T20, so there's a lot of focus there."
At Test level, room has been created in the batting line-up with AB de Villiers' absence on paternity leave creating a temporary gap and Alviro Petersen's retirement providing the opportunity for someone to stake a more permanent claim. Stiaan van Zyl has been touted for both roles but whether he will cut it as opener is not clear. "Stiaan is not an opener. To play out of position is not easy, especially at the top of the innings," Hudson said.
Instead, Reeza Hendricks has been included despite a lean season ahead of leading run-scorer Stephen Cook and seasoned performer Andrew Puttick. "Reeza has got amazing talent and ability. Both Stephen and Andrew's domestic form has been great but we have to look to the future." Cook and Puttick are 32 and 34 respectively, while Hendricks is 25.
Age was not a factor in spinner Aaron Phangiso's case. The 31-year-old has been named in the Test squad, though he is not a regular first-class player, because of conditions in Bangladesh. "It's from left-field but we thought Phangi, who takes the ball away from the right-hander, could complement someone like JP [Duminy], who takes the ball away from the left-hander," he said. "Phangi is also a reliable spinner, who can tie up an end while the seamers rotate at the other end."
Phangiso will also feature in the limited-overs matches and legspinner Eddie Leie could make his debut in T20Is, with the selectors planning for the World T20. "Eddie is quite similar to Imran Tahir and we've seen how well Imran has done so it will be good to give Eddie an opportunity and see what he can do," Hudson said. "In time, he may mould himself on Imran."
The only squad with no newcomers is the ODI team, although Ryan McLaren has been welcomed back in an attempt to fill the allrounder's spot. "That's something we've been looking at for a while," Hudson said. "Now it will be up to a new convener to find the answer."
Although Hudson is not standing again, the rest of his panel - Hussein Manack, Shafiek Abrahams and Linda Zondi - were all nominated as selectors again. CSA will also decide on a new bowling coach to replace Allan Donald at the meeting on June 2.