Dependables No Longer On The Books, An Era Ends > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Dependables no longer on the books, an era ends

Hashim Amla & Dale Steyn had been contracted by CSA since 2007.

Hashim Amla & Dale Steyn had been contracted by CSA since 2007.

To everything else that's being taken away from us at this awful time, add names as household as toothpaste. Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn have been among Cricket South Africa's centrally contracted players for long enough to serve the national team under the country's last three presidents. Vernon Philander has one fewer head of state in his collection but he is no less a member of this club of dependables. None were on the list of 16 players CSA announced on Monday for the 2020-21 season.

Philander was originally contracted in January 2012. Amla and Steyn have been on the books since May 2007, and a glance at the rest of that intake puts their stature into perspective: Graeme Smith, Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, Makhaya Ntini, Herschelle Gibbs, AB de Villiers, Boeta Dippenaar, Andrew Hall, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel and Ashwell Prince.

It's not news that Amla and Philander have called time on their international careers, and that Steyn remains available only for white-ball selection. But those players' now formalised absence from South Africa's core group is the stark truth of the end of an era writ ominously large. It wouldn't loom quite so large and ominous had it not followed the retirements of AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel, which came in the wake of Kyle Abbott going Kolpak. Similarly, were there players to fill the holes that now gape wide, even after a season or two of finding their feet, the situation wouldn't seem so serious.

Fast bowling prospects have South Africa many, although none that promise to become finished articles of the class of Steyn and Philander. But how, exactly, do you replace Amla? You don't. You hope the rest of the batting order can play far enough above themselves to minimise his loss. So far, that hasn't happened. South Africa have lost six of seven Tests since Amla retired. His last seven Tests? They won three, all against Pakistan, and only Quinton de Kock scored more runs for them in that series.

That's not to suggest Amla retired at the top of his game. In those final 14 innings, all but one of them completed, he made 300 runs for an average of 23.08. That's less than half his career mark of 46.64. For a player who suffered only 13 ducks in his total of 215 innings to have accumulated two of them in his last 14 trips to the crease - one of them his only first-baller - said plenty. Even so he remained to the end a massive presence in a team that struggles to articulate such important intangibles to themselves.

That Du Plessis has been retained in the contracted ranks despite relinquishing the captaincy will stoke the ire of his detractors. He attracted an unfairly large amount of the blame, some of it fuelled by race politics, for what went wrong for a team who won only four of the last 16 games they played under his leadership across the formats. It didn't help that this painful period included last year's World Cup. De Kock has replaced him as the white-ball skipper, and has won one of his five series.

Now for the hard part: finding a Test captain for the rubber in the Caribbean in July and August, if it still happens in these days of coronavirus uber alles. The names of Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Aiden Markram and De Kock have been mentioned in this discussion. All merit consideration. None is anywhere near as assured and followable a leader as Du Plessis was for most of his time at the helm.

Neither of the Malans, Pieter and Janneman, who made excellent debuts last season, have cracked the contract nod. Zubayr Hamza, Jon-Jon Smuts and Heinrich Klaasen are also still singing - rather than playing - for their supper. They will take heart from Anrich Nortje, Dwaine Pretorius and Van der Dussen, along with Nadine de Klerk and Sinalo Jafta among the women, all being elevated to that status during the 2019-20 season. They same may happen for them in the coming months. If, that is, there's cricket to be played. If not, 16 men and 14 women will be paid to keep themselves ready for when the all-clear is given.

The world, nevermind the game, has never known days like these. If they're good for anything, they might help South Africa get used to the emptiness left behind by giants like Amla, Steyn and Philander. Not forget them, mind, for that will never happen. But, after all this, nothing that isn't about life and death will matter as much as it did.

Live Home Series
Player Schedule
Points Table Cricket Rankings
Cricket Clothing Cricket Equipment
Cricinfo Apps Download