Proteas to use provinces to prepare for West Indies series

Stuart Hess Sports reporter
New Proteas Test coach Shukri Conrad says all the Proteas will be available for their provinces ahead of the Test series with West Indies later this month.
New Proteas Test coach Shukri Conrad says all the Proteas will be available for their provinces ahead of the Test series with West Indies later this month.
Image: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images

The availability of the Proteas Test players for the domestic four-day competition is seen as an essential part of the build-up to the two-match Test series against the West Indies that starts in Centurion on February 28. 

All of the country's top players were informed that they would have to play for their provinces in the four-day round of fixtures starting February 19, which precedes the first Test.

“Obviously they will get more out of playing in that round of four-day matches than they will in a training camp,” said the Test team’s new head coach, Shukri Conrad. 

Conrad stated the players who didn’t participate in the SA20 tournament will feature this weekend when the four-day competition resumes. For this weekend's round of matches only Khaya Zondo of the Dolphins will be in action. Though Kagiso Rabada is not involved in the last weekend of the SA20, he is not going to play for the Lions this weekend. 

The series against the West Indies will be Conrad's first in charge of the Test team. He did run operations in Rob Walter's absence during the successful ODI series against England recently. It was there that the players were told to avail themselves for the domestic competition. 

“We have been very careful about managing players, you saw that during the ODIs,” said Conrad. Fast bowlers Rabada, Anrich Nortjé and Lungi Ngidi were rotated over the course of those three matches, with one eye on the SA20 but more importantly the Tests against the West Indies that will be played back to back. 

At this stage there was no plan to call on the provincial coaches to limit their use of the players. Previously, especially with regards the fast bowlers, domestic coaches were told they could only use bowlers for a set number of overs in a day or even a session. 

“No, we don't want to do that,” said Conrad. “We don't want the players losing that competitive edge, that is very important as part of the preparation for the Tests. Also for the provinces there’s a lot at stake; first place is up for grabs, and there’s promotion relegation to think about.”

The squad will gather on February 24 to start preparations for the first Test.

The Proteas’ Test fortunes have been on the decline after the highs achieved last season when they came from behind to beat India. They drew a series in New Zealand and won on home soil against Bangladesh despite missing a number of star players who went to the IPL. However, they’ve won only one of their last six Tests against England and Australia, effectively costing them a spot in the World Test Championship final. 

Conrad has stated previously that he wants the team to adopt a more aggressive mindset similar to that which has made England so successful in the past 12 months.

After the series against the West Indies, the Proteas aren't scheduled to play another Test until the end of the year when India arrive for a two-match series. 

Cricket SA have stated they are seeking options for the Test side to play more, but they face a challenge finding sufficient space on a packed calendar. 

The West Indies will finish the first of two Tests against Zimbabwe on Wednesday. 

In addition to the two Tests, they will also face the Proteas in three ODIs (which are not part of the ICC Super League competition) and three T20 Internationals.

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