Johannesburg-raised Grant Elliott, the star of New Zealand’s World Cup semi-final victory over South Africa on Tuesday, was a refugee from the quota system and there are fears of a fresh exodus of players after it was revealed Cricket South Africa (CSA) will raise the targets for players of colour and Black African cricketers for next season.
CSA’s plan to increase the number of players of colour required to feature in all franchise cricket to six from next season, including at least three Black Africans, and to make the quota seven players of colour, including four Black Africans, in the semi-professional teams has been slammed by the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) and the franchises, not least of all because they were not consulted before the announcement was made after they had done almost all of their contracting already for next season.
“We’re very unhappy, not with the decision itself because we represent all players and stay out of transformation decisions, but with the way it was done,” Tony Irish, the SACA chief executive, told The Citizen on Tuesday. “Our agreement with CSA requires them to consult with us and the franchises before doing things like that, and they have to do it before the franchise window for contracts starts on January 1.
“But they did this with two weeks left in the three-month window for transfers and 90% of the franchise contracts have been finalised based on the old numbers from last season. It means that players with contracts won’t be playing and the players that are playing won’t have contracts.”
The move, the second increase in the quota in successive seasons, will also have serious consequences for the pipeline of talent in South Africa because it effectively means that each union can only offer regular first-class cricket to 9 white players every season. Talented players on the fringes of their franchise sides like George Linde, Sybrand Engelbrecht, Daryn Smit, Calvin Savage, Duanne Olivier, Quinton Friend, Devon Conway, Sean Jamison, JP de Villiers, Shaun von Berg, Jon-Jon Smuts and David White could find themselves relegated to club cricket.
Players who have piqued the interest of the national selectors like Marchant de Lange, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Corne Dry, Hardus Viljoen and Heino Kuhn could find themselves languishing in semi-professional cricket.
“This is exactly why consultation is so important, but CSA have completely disregarded us despite the agreements being clear. We are considering our options,” Irish said.
CSA spokesman Altaaf Kazi confirmed they had received a letter from SACA and “we are aware of their concerns and they are being addressed by the board”.
Elliott’s winning hand for New Zealand has once again put the spotlight on how much international-calibre talent South Africa loses, making a balanced, well thought-out response to the demands of transformation a necessity.