Nathan Adcock's South Australia career is hanging in the balance after the Redbacks did not give him a contract in their first round of offers. Shane Deitz, the wicketkeeper-batsman, also missed out, while the New South Wales players Greg Mail and Grant Lambert have declined a move to Adelaide.
It is a remarkable fall for Adcock who started the 2007-08 season as captain. However his poor batting form - his first-class average for the campaign was 13.83 - first cost him the leadership and now a contract.
"Obviously Nathan's disappointed but he understands where we're going," the South Australia coach Mark Sorell said. "He's taken it really well. His batting performance overall was down on what we expected. That doesn't rule him out in the next round of negotiation and also even in performance down the track in club cricket."
Sorell will not rush to appoint next season's captain, although he admitted he was keen on cementing Adcock's replacement. "We need to get our squad sorted," he said, "but come May 15 we will have our final list of offers and we will know where our squad is at."
The management has drawn on last year's lessons when an 11th-hour appointment meant Adcock barely had time to settle after replacing Darren Lehmann. "I'd be quite keen to establish our leadership early," Sorell said, "so everyone knows what we're doing."
Graham Manou, who took over the Pura Cup leadership in February, is a strong contender but Sorell was offering no promises. "We've got some candidates for that position," he said, while acknowledging that Manou was the stand-out contender from the current group.
Adcock and Deitz could yet receive lifelines if they are handed second-round deals on May 15, and until then they also have the option of being picked up from the transfer pool by other states. Deitz made two fifties in 16 Pura Cup innings, with an average of 20.25, and appeared only once in the one-day competition.
Instead of looking at local talent, the Redbacks picked four targets at New South Wales and were successful in picking up Aaron O'Brien and Tom Cooper as they attempt to bolster the state's inconsistent batting. Sorell said O'Brien, who also offers left-arm orthodox bowling, was "an exciting player, a good all-round cricketer" and the 21-year-old Cooper was "a guy for the future".
Sorell plans to analyse the state's recruitment and retention system after finding it "really disappointing" to miss out on some key batsmen in Mail and Lambert. Mail is studying to be an investment banker while Lambert's decision was based on family reasons. "The downside of attacking those sorts of players is that they are more entrenched where they are," Sorell said. "We had some hurdles there."
South Australia had previously made an unsuccessful bid for the opener Chris Rogers and were unable to secure their own No. 1 player Ryan Harris. Rogers ended up at Victoria while Harris will move to Queensland. The state will continue to look for new signings in the next few weeks.
South Australia's local contract holders Graham Manou, Mark Cosgrove, Daniel Cullen, Daniel Harris, Paul Rofe, Mark Cleary, Cullen Bailey, Callum Ferguson, Daniel Christian, Cameron Borgas, Peter George, Gary Putland.
The imports Michael Klinger, Aaron O'Brien, Tom Cooper.
The rookies Jake Brown, James Smith, Jason Donnelly, Jake Haberfield, Chadd Sayers, Andy Delmont.
Players on the transfer list Nathan Adcock, Simon Roberts, Ken Skewes, Shane Deitz, Ben Cameron, Jason Borgas, Tom Plant.