Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Heavy is the head that wears the crown

Barring any surprising revelations, Quinton de Kock is set to be - for the foreseeable future - South Africa's captain in all three formats. He is also set to remain the wicket keeper in all formats. If you wanted to add a bit more work to his load, he is also likely going to be South Africa's best batsman in all three formats.

It was 21st century philosopher, Kanye West who once proclaimed that "No one man should have all this power", and boy oh boy does de Kock have a lot of power as of now. It could be argued that never before have the fortunes of the national team rested so much in the hands of one man. Sure, Graeme Smith was the captain of the side in all three formats, but he was never the best batsman in the team, nor did he have the most important fielding role in the team. The only man who has experienced this level of pressure for any extended period of time was Zimbabwean great, Andy Flower. While it could be argued that Flower's performances were hardly influenced by all of that responsibility (his overall Test average of 51.55 compares well to his captain's average of 49.29), it is more pertinent to realise that
 - He was only captain for two formats. de Kock will lead the national outfit in three different formats
 - His ODI record as captain (average of 25) was a far cry from his overall ODI average of 35.
 - The pressure of captaining Zimbabwean cricket is vastly different to the pressure of captaining the Proteas.

Of course, none of this is to say that de Kock shouldn't be the captain of all three formats. Having your power centralized seems to be the new wave in world cricket, with India, New Zealand, and until a rather embarassing episode with some sandpaper, Australia all having one man lead them in all three formats. If anything, given the embarassment of riches at the wicket-keeper position, it seems excessive to have de Kock also keep wicket.

At first glance, Quinton de Kock doesn't seem the archetypical South African captain. At 5'7, he is by some distance the shortest man to ever captain South Africa in any of our major national sporting codes. This is no coincidence. Stereotypes are dangerous, but as a nation, South Africa has tended to prefer larger than life, imposing figures to be our leaders of men. You can see it in our cricket past captains. Hansie Cronje, Graeme Smith and Shaun Pollock were all 6'4 and as imposing as a barn door. Even in football, a game where size doesn't even immediately scream a limiting factor, South Africa's three most tenured captains were Neil Tovey, Lucas Radebe and Aaron Mokoena are all hulking centre-backs. More than the physical, Quinton's approach to the game also doesn't exactly shout South African captain. Often times quiet and unassuming, it's often seemed like he'd rather be at an illegal nuclear Testing facility than in an interview. It should be noted that de Kock probably was not the first choice for this role as leading man. What else could the move to make Aiden Markram captain in Faf du Plessis' absence after he'd played about two ODI games be interpreted as other than a move to shore up a successor? Unfortunately, Markram has been both injured and out of form for the better part of two years, which has caused a vacuum which de Kock would be hoping to convincingly fill.

There is a lot of pressure on the once wonder boy to become the leading man. You can be certain though that he will try his utmost best to fill the role ably.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Decoding Cricket South Africa's restructure

Cricket South Africa announced sweeping new measures for the 2020-21 cricket season, ostensibly to cut costs spent on domestic cricket. The biggest change will see the First Class and One Day Cups adopt a rather strange format where there will now be two groups of three teams, instead of the old round-robin format. Having seen how unpopular the Conference system proved to be in Super Rugby, CSA has decided that it would serve as the ideal format for their restructured domestic system.
Essentially, each team plays the teams in their conference or group twice, once at home and once away. Then they face the team in the opposing conference one. Presumably, the home/away will alternate every year, for cross-conference matchups. One advantage this system has over the Super Rugby equivalent is that teams will still face each team in the competition. Largely due to the fact there are so few teams in the domestic set-up. Another advantage is that with the conferences likely to be set according to geography, this will likely lead to reduced travel costs for all the teams involved.

Costs. The real story here is that Cricket South Africa has cut the amount of domestic First Class and 50-over cricket by 30% because of cost. Due to their insistence on hosting the often lamented Mzansi Super League, CSA has had to cut corners elsewhere in other competitions. Namely, the ones which are not on TV, nor particularly well attended. It should be remembered that CSA has been forecast to lose R654 million (about $35 million) over the next four years and they have desperately sought to find a way to minimize that however possible. Previously this included doing away with the franchise system and returning to the old Districts format. A proposal which ended up in court. Now, in 2020, it seems they have decided the way forward is to simply cut the amount of games you host. Sure, this may hinder the development of South African cricketers in formats other than T20. And yes, this may lead to even longer periods of mediocrity at an international level. But CSA wants a lucrative and successful T20 tournament and they are prepared to mortgage their future to get it. WE can only hope that the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow isn't fool's gold.

To the couch for Bouch

There is an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, we will tolerate you until we can replace ...