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When to end the innings: coronavirus throws SA cricket stars’ plans awry

Graeme Smith says, with time, things will revert back to normal under his watch.
Graeme Smith says, with time, things will revert back to normal under his watch.
Image: Bertram Malgas/Gallo Images

The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has impacted on many things‚ with one of those being when players who are at the twilight stage of their careers knowing when to call time.

This is critical from a South African perspective as players like AB de Villiers (36) and Faf du Plessis (35) don’t have much left in them from an international perspective. De Villiers retired in 2018‚ but has been vocal in terms of returning to the national team for the T20 World Cup.

Du Plessis has relinquished his Test and ODI leadership roles but intimated he wants to go to Australia for the T20 World Cup that should be held later this year.

Dale Steyn (36) still plays T20 cricket and has bowled well enough to keep himself as a selection prospect while the 41-year-old Imran Tahir has showed no signs of aging in his performance.

Cricket South Africa’s director of cricket Graeme Smith said it was going to be tough to predict what would take place in the next few months‚ but players need to be ready for anything. They find themselves in a predicament as there’s no domestic T20 cricket around the world at the moment to keep their games in fine fettle.

“Across the board‚ the key thing is to be ready when the opportunity arises to train outdoors‚ play cricket again‚ get our systems going and also assess players quickly‚” Smith said.

“The hope was to have 14 T20 games before the World Cup and that’s not going to happen while there’s a chance of the World Cup being shifted to next year. The key is to be ready for anything because there are so many variables right now.

“We’ll have to assess players on form and that always was going to be the case in terms of who performs and who takes their opportunities. When that event comes around‚ what’s the best squad that we can take to a tournament to get us an opportunity to win us the trophy?”

India’s mooted T20 tour of South Africa that should happen in late August will help CSA’s coffers‚ but will also put a scheduling spanner in the works. South Africa are scheduled to be in the West Indies in late July and early August‚ but the West Indies themselves are gearing themselves of a tour of England in late July. Smith said CSA will see what the schedule allows from a touring perspective.

“We had to cancel the women’s tour and the A tour‚ but we’re trying to find a gap for the men’s tour. I stand to be corrected but they’re finishing their tour of England on July 29 as things stand. That’s shifting our date and we’re trying to find something in the calendar where that will work‚” Smith said.

“At the moment‚ we’ve got India scheduled to be here at the end of August for the three T20Is. We are looking at before or after that‚ but that depends on the virus and the government regulations.

“We’re looking at all aspects that are open and Trinidad seems to be their favoured venue from a health and safety perspective‚ but nothing is cast in stone.”