South Africa’s Pudding Bowl Of Talent Running Over In The Gulf

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - South Africa's pudding bowl of talent running over in the Gulf. From Chris Greaves to Curtis Campher, Bavuma's return to the SJN -- it's been an interesting few days for South African cricket

South Africa’s Pudding Bowl Of Talent Running Over In The GulfFrom Chris Greaves to Curtis Campher, Bavuma's return to the SJN -- it's been an interesting few days for South African cricket

Even by South African cricket's singular standards, it's been an interesting few days. On Saturday, CSA managed to congratulate Lungi Ngidi alone on his team's triumph in the IPL. On Sunday, Ray Jennings highlighted that the head coaches of seven of the 16 teams at the T20 WC were his compatriots.

Also on Sunday, Chris Greaves – a former delivery driver and current golf course greenskeeper who went to the same Johannesburg school as Graeme Smith – rocked and rolled with bat and ball for Scotland. And Curtis Campher – who went to another Johannesburg school, which was also the alma mater of Kagiso Rabada – took four in four for Ireland.

On Monday, under the radar of all that, Temba Bavuma made a stolid rather than spectacular return to action after 50 days out with a broken thumb. And CSA's Social Justice and Nation-Building hearings resumed with rebuttal testimony from some of those implicated in the first round of cathartic, necessary, long overdue scab-picking.

“Congratulations Lungi Ngidi on claiming the 2021 IPL title with Chennai Super Kings,” CSA posted on social media, despite the fact that CSK's squad also featured Faf du Plessis and Imran Tahir. Du Plessis, whose 59-ball 86 clinched the final against Kolkata Knight Riders in Dubai on Friday and made him the tournament's second-highest runscorer, justifiably responded: “Really???”

David Wiese, these days of Namibia, blasted the snub as “absolutely shocking”. Dale Steyn came off his long run in a series of posts that included a description of the message as “disgusting” and warned CSA were “opening a can of worms for themselves”. He also offered advice: “Delete the post and add all the men involved, save yourself the embarrassment and ridicule.”

CSA did just that: “Congratulations to all the South Africans who competed in and claimed victory in the 2021 IPL Final with Chennai Super Kings. Notably Faf du Plessis who put in a man of the match performance.”

By then the toothpaste was well out of the tube – and, not for the first time, all over CSA's face. That Ngidi didn't play a single match in this year's IPL only made the damaging episode more difficult to understand. Neither can the mess be explained away by the fact that, unlike Du Plessis and Tahir, Ngidi is contracted to CSA. If the suits consider worthy of their recognition only those who are currently in their employ then they have shambled to a new low. It also doesn't wash to argue that, of the three players, only Ngidi is at the T20 WC. Any discussion on that topic would have to start with Du Plessis' shocking omission from the squad. With depressing predictability, social media's bottom feeders didn't need long to posit the poisonous nonsense that Ngidi was named because he is black and Du Plessis ignored because he is white.

There was something of that ugly narrative in the reaction to Jennings, also on social media, doing the math on the nationality of head coaches at the tournament; Mark Boucher, Russell Domingo, Graham Ford, Mickey Arthur, Lance Klusener, Shane Burger and Pierre de Bruyn are in charge of South Africa, Bangladesh, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia.

Asked to elaborate, Jennings told Cricbuzz on Monday: “There's been a period of time where people like Lance Klusener, Pierre de Bruyn and Shane Burger have gained quite a lot of experience as coaches. They're recognised at a certain level. Teams like Afghanistan and Scotland wouldn't attract top international coaches. They attract the type of guy who wants to move his career forward and is probably blocked from doing so in South Africa.”

Blocked by what? Essentially, by an overabundance of excellence. The country's elite schools produce more quality talent than the comparatively inadequate professional system is able to absorb. The same holds true for coaches, so they go elsewhere. Still, there are anomalies. Like Jennings himself. Days after returning from the UAE in 2014 with the under-19 World Cup trophy in his squad's luggage, CSA said his services were no longer required. Cue more clumsily squeezed toothpaste.

Regardless, the proof of South Africa's pudding bowl of talent running over was there to be eaten in Oman and Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Greaves, until recently an Amazon driver and – according to his LinkedIn page – still a greenskeeper at St Andrews, came to the crease with Bangladesh having reduced the Scots to 52/5 inside 11 overs. His 28-ball 45 set them up for a respectable total of 140/9. Greaves then took 2/19 in three overs of sniping leg spin to clinch a famous six-run win. Not bad for someone who might have remained firmly out of the limelight had he not, while bowling to England's players in the Wanderers nets in January 2010, told Jonathan Trott his mother was British.

If that sounds familiar it might be because word that Campher's grandmother was Irish became part of dressing room conversation during a game between an Easterns and Northerns Combined XI and Ireland in Pretoria in February 2018. With that the course of the former South Africa under-19 player's career was rerouted to the northern hemisphere. For him, there would be no emptying trucks of parcels or keeping the fairways fabulous to earn a crust. And he showed why by dismissing Colin Ackermann, Ryan ten Doeschate, Scott Edwards and Roelof van der Merwe with consecutive deliveries to wreck the Netherlands' innings and set up Ireland's seven-wicket win. Here's the twist: Ackermann, Ten Doeschate and Van der Merwe were all born in and made their way in cricket in South Africa.

Bavuma's first innings since September 2 didn't have a hope of competing with the drama of those plots, unless he sustained another injury. Happily, he didn't. But his return couldn't have come in less auspicious circumstances: a T20 WC warm-up match against Afghanistan on an unhelpfully sluggish pitch at Abu Dhabi's Tolerance Oval, one of the Sheikh Zayed Stadium's out grounds. Bavuma batted in accordance with the low-key script, facing the first dozen balls of the match for a solitary single, and needing 22 deliveries to reach double figures. He had made 31 off 38 when he swiped at a wide delivery from Mohammad Nabi, and turned on his heel and walked without waiting for the umpire to confirm the edge to Mohammad Shahzad. It wasn't as pretty as Bavuma's batting usually is, but it will do for now.

Across the equator and far away, some of South Africa's domestic administrators were going chapter and verse through claims of racist treatment made against their organisations at the SJN. Where previously the room had been filled with the white-hot emotions of those who had been wronged, this was all about coldly calculating another version of what had happened during the game's troubled past. Some sins were admitted, others denied, and still others cast as fiction.

Interesting. But probably no more than the next few days.

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