Marchant de Lange is one of the most promising fast bowlers in the country, but the new quotas that will be in force for domestic cricket from next season will ensure that the national selectors will seldom get a chance to see him in action, unless it’s in amateur or club cricket.
The new quotas demand that every franchise field six players of colour, including three Black Africans, in every starting XI, which is no doubt a worthy gesture towards ensuring cricket is representative of the country’s demographics, but, as with most attempts to fiddle with finely balanced systems, it will have unintended consequences.
One of these is that a 24-year-old strike bowler who has already taken 24 wickets in 10 matches across all three formats for South Africa is unlikely to play much franchise cricket next season.
De Lange plays for the Titans, who will in all likelihood fill their quota of Black Africans with two pace bowlers – Ethy Mbhalati and Junior Dala – and wicketkeeper/batsman Mangaliso Mosehle, who incidentally averaged 20 in the Sunfoil Series, 24 in the Momentum One-Day Cup and just six in the RamSlam T20 Challenge last season.
Cricket teams, much like food chains in nature, are a delicate balance and few teams will field more than four pace bowlers, with the Titans surely giving one of their other spots to Rowan Richards, the left-arm swing bowler and player of colour. De Lange is also competing with David Wiese and new signing Chris Morris, and the Titans are unlikely to pick him ahead of those two quality all-rounders.
Cricket South Africa already stand accused of trying to con the South African public that they really care about transformation after the World Cup shambles involving Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott and Aaron Phangiso not playing a single game, and now they have rushed to implement a system that they didn’t even research.
I have it on good authority that Corrie van Zyl, the general manager of cricket, was caught totally unawares by the new quota proposal – it wasn’t even on the agenda – and I am certain that CSA did not even do the research I’ve done on what franchise teams will look like next season, because they then would have picked up that highly promising players of colour like Diego Rosier, Beuran Hendricks, Dane Paterson and Dane Piedt are also going to be negatively affected.
Hendricks and Paterson, who are both surely looking to play international cricket, are going to struggle to get into the Cape Cobras side for the same reason as De Lange – two pace bowlers’ slots will be taken by Mthokozisi Shezi and probably Tshepo Moreki.
Across all the franchises, it seems inevitable that teams will play two Black African pacemen, which is going to create an imbalance.
Some of the other talented cricketers who will not get regular franchise cricket are Sybrand Engelbrecht, Shaheen Khan, Keegan Petersen, Lizaad Williams, Daryn Smit, Calvin Savage, Daryn Dupavillon, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Corne Dry, Duanne Olivier, Gerhardt Abrahams, JP de Villiers, Roelof van der Merwe, Heino Kuhn, Graeme van Buuren, Shaun von Berg, Qaasim Adams, Andrew Birch, Ryan Bailey and Colin Ackermann. That is a major loss of strength for the competitions that feed into the national team.
The Highveld Lions are the one franchise that is not going to be affected by the new policy because they are already ahead of the curve when it comes to transformation. I went to their annual awards dinner this week and what a fabulous night it was with all the different communities in South Africa strongly represented.
But we are not going to succeed in making all our teams look like that and enjoy the on-field success of the Lions when administrators decide to implement drastic policies without even subjecting them to prior research or consulting the leading cricket brains in the country.