South Africa’s home test season begins tomorrow at in Joburg as the Proteas take on New Zealand, in what will be Daniel Vettori’s first Test as captain. South Africa have once again decided to leave out legend Shaun Pollock, who will instead play for his franchise, the Dolphins, against the Warriors in East London. South Africa have decided to retain the same 11 that won the Test series in Pakistan a few weeks ago. During that series Shaun Pollock was dropped for the first time in his 107 Test career. The selectors made the case that they felt that Polly was not best suited to sub continental wickets anymore and that he would return for the home series. While South Africa won the 2 Test series 1-0 it was noticeable that their tail was longer than usual, with Paul Harris and Andre Nel coming in at 8 and 9, positions usually filled by Pollock, who is a far better batsman then either of them. While Pollock may not be the same strike bowler he was he is still a bowler able to contain batsman and would be a foil for any of the other bowlers bowling at the other end. In matches where South Africa are on top the long tail could be compensated for, but when they are put under pressure they will be exposed. Lets hope that this is not the end of brilliant career for South Africa’s leading Test and ODI bowler. He certainly deserves better.
Dale Benkenstein, who was to be the player coach of the Dolphins this season, has joined the renegade Indian cricket league, and in doing so has had his career in South Africa brought to an end. CSA have banned any players who have signed up for the ICL from representing any South African teams, at franchise and international level. Benkenstein, who captained the Dolphins for 8 consecutive years in the mid 90’s and early 2000’s, was part of the double winning team of the 96/97 season, and has played for the Dolphins for all 15 years of his cricketing career. Benkenstein played 23 ODI’s for South Africa and it is a crime that that number is so small and that he didn’t play any Tests for his country. He should have been the man to replace Hansie Cronje as the national captain but for whatever reasons that never happened. He still has a few seasons left in county cricket with Durham, who he has captained for the last few seasons. At 33 the decision to join the ICL was one that he had to make, he would earn in one month what he’d usually earn in 6 years, and with a family and a future beyond cricket it is the right decision for him. Lance Klusener and Johan van der Wath have also joined the ICL and have thus had their South African franchise contracts torn up. With cricket being a business and a livelihood for these players there is no reason why this action had to take place. They should still be available for franchise and country. Cricket is the big loser here, especially the domestic fans in South African cricket. The Dolphins have lost two long serving great cricketers at a time when the team really needs help and direction.
Liam Plunket and Steve Harmison will make their South African franchise debuts this week. Plunket will be playing for the Dolphins and Harmison for the Lions.
South Africa has ditched the racial quota system in all sports. Following the success of the Rugby World Cup, where South Africa emerged champions, the Sports Minister, Makhenkesi Stifole, announced that there would be no more quotas in South African sport. Instead the government would be investing more money in resources to develop young, black talent. This can only be good news to South African sports teams and fans, and to the people, as the money will now be put to use where it can have an affect and better serve young sportsmen and women. Merit will be the only selection criteria and tokenism will be a thing of the past. South African sport is moving forward.