First it was England with a 55-man strong animal. Now it’s the Proteas, who have currently assembled a 44-player “high performance training squad” that not only serves as a kick-start for the national team, but keeps most of the players commanding some broader attention busy.
In these strange and challenging times – with franchise cricket unlikely to start until November – it makes sense.
But, with little cricket on the horizon, what does an extended squad really mean?
Is it really as innocuous as it sounds?
“I don’t think the general cricket public should suddenly expect strange selections to happen when the Proteas start playing again,” seasoned coach Dave Nosworthy told Sport24.
“It’s probably just about keeping everyone in the loop and steadily growing the base of players from which one can choose of.”
However, the former SA “A”, Titans, Canterbury, Highveld Lions coach as well as director of cricket at Somerset notes that assembling the top names on the local circuit is hardly as simple as a bit of scattered training.
Extended national squadQuinton de Kock (Titans), Dean Elgar (Titans), Lungi Ngidi (Titans), Aiden Markram (Titans), Junior Dala (Titans), Theunis de Bruyn (Titans), Rassie van der Dussen (Lions), Shaun von Berg (Titans), Dwaine Pretorius (Lions), Heinrich Klaasen (Titans), Temba Bavuma (Lions), Reeza Hendricks (Lions), Kagiso Rabada (Lions), Tabraiz Shamsi (Titans), Wiaan Mulder (Lions), Bjorn Fortuin (Lions), Andile Phehlukwayo (Dolphins), David Miller (Dolphins), Sarel Erwee (Dolphins), Khaya Zondo (Dolphins), Daryn Dupavillon (Dolphins), Keshav Maharaj (Dolphins), Senuran Muthusamy (Dolphins), Keagan Petersen (Dolphins), Imran Tahir (Dolphins), Lutho Sipamla (Lions), Edward Moore (Warriors), Anrich Nortje (Warriors), Sisanda Magala (Warriors), Glenton Stuurman (Warriors), Jon-Jon Smuts (Warriors), Rudi Second (Warriors), Pite van Biljon (Knights), Raynard van Tonder (Knights), Gerald Coetzee (Knights), Pieter Malan (Cape Cobras), Zubayr Hamza (Cape Cobras), Janneman Malan (Cape Cobras), Faf du Plessis (Titans), Tony de Zorzi (Cape Cobras), Beuran Hendricks (Lions), Nandre Burger (Cape Cobras), George Linde (Cape Cobras), Kyle Verreynne (Cape Cobras).
“I’m still in contact with a few of my English players at Somerset and they haven’t all exactly been positive about their national training group,” he said.
“To some, there’s been a feeling of affirmation and happiness. But others have told me it feels some days as if they’re wasting time. What are they exactly doing being part of that group? There have been reservations about the England coach staff not quite communicating as effectively.”
It’s indeed not difficult to understand the frustration.
Making the cut would be reassuring to any player that his domestic efforts are being recognised, but that hardly suggests a proper international call-up is imminent.
A typical national squad is made up of 15 players, with about five on standby to fill any sort of immediate breach.
Yet it still leaves 24 others no closer to wearing a green cap.
“There’s nothing to fault (national coach) Mark Boucher and (national director of cricket) Graeme Smith with here. All I’m saying is that man management is key with these players,” said Nosworthy.
“It’s about clear and constant communication, to let them know where they stand.”
The 52-year-old, CEO nowadays of his own cricketing mentorship agency, admits he’s “old-school” and would probably use the extended squad system more directly.
“If it’s about gauging depth then, if the logistics are possible, organise a few inter-squad games. I still believe that’s one of the best ways to determine the potential of a player to make the step up,” he said.
“Have your most promising young batsmen front up against the national attack. Throw them into some sort of deep end. You’ve already made the effort to identify your 44 best players, to show them that the national setup is wider than just a special group of few.
“You believe they can go somewhere, so maybe try them out against your experienced internationals.”
The flip-side of the coin, naturally, is that omissions also tell a story.
Matthew Breetzke, an age-group star and solid all round for the Warriors last season, isn’t there.
Over a combined 1 000 runs in both four- and one-day cricket wasn’t enough for the Dolphins’ Grant Roelofsen to crack the nod.
If 19-year-old Gerald Coetzee is part of the group basically based on his potential, why couldn’t Thando Ntini also get a look in?
As much as 44 is a meaty number and not everyone can be accommodated, it can also be argued that 44 players translates into four full playing XIs.
Franchise cricket has six.
It can (but shouldn’t) be demoralising.
“When you consider the franchise system, it’s relatively small. So yes, it’s understandable to feel a bit disappointed to be left out, especially because it might seem like you’re in the minority,” said Nosworthy.
“Yet for a national coach and selector, it’s something you might desire for the future. One can learn a lot from how a player reacts to being left out. If he missed out, does he manage it well or not? That’s a great indication too of a player’s potential.
“In that sense, an extended squad isn’t a bad thing.”
Source: Heinz Schenk – Sport24