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Ken Borland

KZN sign Smuts … and call for system to give more credit to teams who provide several Proteas

Posted on June 02, 2022 by Ken

Veteran Proteas all-rounder Jon-Jon Smuts will give the Dolphins much experience and quality next season as they push to steer clear of relegation from Division I, but KZN Cricket Union chief executive Heinrich Strydom on Wednesday criticised the structure of domestic cricket, saying it did not give enough credit to those teams that provide several players to the national teams.

The 33-year-old Smuts, who can bat in the top-order and bowls very useful left-arm spin (especially in white-ball cricket), will be joining the Dolphins from the Eastern Province Warriors, having been based in the Eastern Cape since his first-class debut in 2007.

Smuts has played six ODIs, averaging 45 with the bat, and 13 T20 Internationals, but his last appearance for South Africa was in April 2021, so his days of Proteas call-ups would appear to be over.

Losing players to the national team – nine Dolphins featured in Proteas squads last season – is what Strydom said played a key role in their disappointing 2021/22 campaign, which left them tied in second-last position with the North-West Dragons, six points ahead of the Free State Knights, in the promotion/relegation standings. The bottom team at the end of next season automatically goes down to Division II.

“With the amount of national players we have, never mind the SA A team, we needed another senior guy because we were just left with a few 26/27-year-olds,” Strydom told The Citizen on Wednesday.

“It was a weird season for us, we were the only unbeaten side in four-day cricket but we had three away matches washed out, and the consistency was not there in limited-overs cricket.

“With the new structure, we have players all over the country now, guys like Sibonelo Makhanya and Senuran Muthusamy even captaining their new teams.

“But it doesn’t make sense for a team to be relegated when they provide so many players to South Africa. We even had our coach and strength & conditioning coach with the Proteas for a while, and providing so many people to the national squad puts you at risk.

“The Central Gauteng Lions are in the same position with as many players involved with the Proteas. Imagine not having a Division I team playing at the Wanderers or Kingsmead?” Strydom said.

There is no doubt that, at full strength, both the Lions, who were in danger of being drawn into the relegation battle before their surprising triumph in the One-Day Cup at the end of the season, and the Dolphins are top-class teams that should not be relegated, especially when the side replacing them will almost certainly be of a lesser standard.

Strydom said he is hopeful discussions with the new CSA Board will see a change of heart.

“The basic agreement is done, but will common sense prevail? It’s not an authentic system of developing talent in this country when teams are not playing their own players.

“A lot of the provinces are not a representation of their specific area, and it’s not a level playing field when teams like the Lions and Dolphins provide a much higher percentage of national players.”

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