The new list of nationally contracted players, due to be finalised before the end of the month, is not causing the anxiety and dispute many believed it would.
In fact, there is so much agreement between national coach Eric Simons, selection convenor Omar Henry and the UCB chief executive Gerald Majola that the issue will not be referred to the National Cricket Committee.
The NCC, which was formed as a trouble-shooting mechanism to address many of the troubled areas of the game after the double-headed thrashing by the Aussies, was due to discuss who was ‘in’ and who was ‘out’ at a meeting on May 14.
But consensus was reached with remarkable ease between Majola, Henry and Simons following the national team’s return from Bangladesh and now the nation’s elite players could know within seven to 10 days whether they will be amongst the UCB’s retained players.
Six players will be entering the second year of two-year contracts so they may continue to breathe easily for another 12 months – or 11, actually, because the plan is to revert to April 30 for contract renewals next year.
Those lucky players are: Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs, Makhya Ntini, Mark Boucher and Paul Adams.
There will also be (or should be) five definite departures from the list: Allan Donald, Jonty Rhodes, Mornantau Hayward, Roger Telemachus and, sadly, Steve Elworthy.
The UCB’s finance men have set a limit of 20 for contracted players and there are at least another six certainties to join those already signed up. They are Graeme Smith, Neil McKenzie, Boeta Dippenaar, Jacques Rudolph, Robin Peterson and Nicky Boje.
Martin van Jaarsveld, currently without contract, scored three consecutive centuries for SA ‘A’ against Australia ‘A’ – if he isn’t a prospect worth investing in then nobody is. Contract. That’s 13.
What about Mfuneko Ngam who spent the whole of last year drawing a contracted salary from the UCB while he was injured – is he worth persisting with? It seems pointless to adopt a policy of long-term investment if you’re going to abandon it after one bad year. Contract. 14.
Ashwell Prince? Contract. 15. Andrew Hall? Contract. 16.
The same could be said of the policy regarding Justin Ontong although it can be easily argued that the talented Bolander has had enough opportunities to impress and has failed to take them. No contract.
Charl Langeveldt? A change of province from Boland to Border shows initiative and ambition and that has been allied to a physical determination. He has lost weight and is bowling with more pace and swing than ever. Contract. 17.
Now the hard questions start. If Lance Klusener wasn’t worth a place in either the Test squad to Bangladesh or the ‘A’ squad to Australia, can he really be worth a contract?
If Eric Simons is going to succeed in shaping the future of the game in his image, he cannot afford to entertain a man who sends the message to juniors that self-serving training and practise schedules are fine and that cricket is a job, first and foremost, in which passion and pride are irritations.
Is Gary Kirsten worth contracting for another year now that he’s a Test player only? Now that Smith and Gibbs are the established openers, is there room for Gazza? A five-Test tour of England, plus the chance that Gibbs may be moved to the middle order, plus the fact that Kirsten could come ‘cheap’ because he won’t play one-dayers, means he’ll be offered another year. 18.
A few days ago I suggested that 18 was sufficient but now I realise that I had fallen prey to a nasty tendency for commentators to be hardest against those they are closest to. If a bowler from South Africa is named man of the series in a tournament in the subcontinent, makes telling contributions in his debut Test, acts like an overdose of viagra for team morale and is the fittest member of the squad, is he not worth some investment? Just because Alan Dawson designed my garden in Cape Town and is 33 years old, does not mean he doesn’t deserve a contract. Go Dawsy!
If anyone outside that 19 plays six ODIs or two Tests he automatically becomes eligible for a contract provided the national selectors approve the move. That means Quinton Friend, Charl Willoughby (who should definitely tour England), Thami Tsolekile, Justin Kemp, Albie Morkel, Dewald Pretorius and Gerald Dros can all make an impression and be welcomed into the fold full-time.
Likely new Contracts:
Martin van Jaarsveld
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