Proteas stars struggle to make first-class impact

South African captain Faf du Plessis has not played in the domestic four-day tournament since the team returned from their tour of India.
South African captain Faf du Plessis has not played in the domestic four-day tournament since the team returned from their tour of India.
Image: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images

South African cricket’s domestic competitions are in as sharp focus as the national team in the wake of the latter’s disastrous Test series in India.

And the former are ahead on the bigger picture’s scoreboard in the current round of franchise first-class matches.

Only six of the dozen fit players who shambled to a 3-0 loss in India are playing for their franchises and none of them made an impact on the first day’s play on Monday‚ although only four had the opportunity.

That asks questions of the prevailing view that the quality chasm between domestic and international cricket is an important reason why South Africa were so disappointing against Virat Kohli’s team.

Heinrich Klaasen and Zubayr Hamza did not bat for the Titans and the Cobras on Monday‚ and in Tuesday’s first session‚ in their games against the Knights and the Warriors.

But Senuran Muthusamy did for the Dolphins against the Lions‚ and managed only 23 off 58 balls in almost two hours before he skied a pull to midwicket.

Lungi Ngidi bowled 13 overs for the Titans and took 1/59‚ Dane Piedt had a similar day at the office for the Cobras where he claimed 1/57 off 23 and teammate George Linde went wicketless in nine overs that yielded 22 runs.

None of those performances were particularly poor‚ but they also didn’t illustrate why the standard in the domestic arena is so far below what it needs to be for South Africa to perform better at international level.

Piedt took another wicket in the morning session on Tuesday‚ when Linde went to lunch with figures of 3/67 but Ngidi found no more success in the five overs he bowled‚ in which he went for 25 runs.

Muthusamy bowled only one over before lunch and conceded three runs.

While all that wasn’t happening‚ Raynard van Tonder‚ the Knights’ 21-year-old opening batter‚ was busy scoring 204 and five other allegedly lesser lights banked scores of between 61 and 70.

No doubt South Africa players are re-adjusting to their home conditions after weeks in the sub-continent‚ and perhaps they are still recovering from the physical and mental aspects of the beating they took there.

But the argument that the franchise system is where South Africa’s problems start is not as sound as its proponents would like us to believe.

Could it be the other way around‚ that because South Africa’s players consider themselves so superior to what is seen week in‚ week out on the country’s major grounds that they don’t pay the domestic game the required respect?

And that‚ consequently‚ they are being exposed as arrogant and complacent when they can least afford it?

That’s too neat an explanation‚ but it deserves to be part of the conversation that cricket in South Africa must have with itself if it is to improve.