For those with a smart sense of timing you may have realised that the time for SA’s player contracts to be reviewed has been and gone. So who’s out of a job and who’s not?
Actually, the contracts deadline of April 30 has been extended by a month, ostensibly because the team is touring Bangladesh but realistically because there are some hideously difficult decisions to make and the General Council, the selectors and the Treasury all needed the extra time.
So, at the next meeting of the National Cricket Committee (which, you may remember was formed to help solve the last crisis in SA cricket following the hammering by Australia) the contracts of the country’s elite will be discussed. The lifestyles and even livelihoods of the games’ best players will be decided.
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 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 task facing the NCC is to limit the number of nationally contracted players to a maximum of 20. So let’s help them along and add the ‘certainties’ to the top six. Graeme Smith, Neil McKenzie, Boeta Dippenaar and Jacques Rudolph. We should probably add the two left arm spinners, Nicky Boje and Robin Peterson.
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 althouth 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.
And that is where the NCC should leave it. If any player outside that group 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, Alan Dawson, Thami Tsolekile, Justin Kemp, Albiw Morkel, Dewald Pretorius and Gerald Dros can all make an impression and be welcomed into the fold full-time.
Martin van Jaarsveld
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