Future imperfect looms for SA’s aging squad

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Melbourne

IMAGINE a SA team without AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir and Morne Morkel …

Actually, imagination is not necessary – all of those players are 30 and older. Which means none of them is likely to see another World Cup.

The 2015 tournament was SA’s chance to win it all but they could not quite get there, going one step further than their predecessors by becoming the first SA team to win a knockout match but crashing out a game later.

This seemed to be a golden generation of SA players, a group who would get up after being knocked down and fight on. But, when it mattered most, they turned out to be brass and promptly tarnished.

With peripheral players Farhaan Behardien and Aaron Phangiso also in the over-30 club and Vernon Philander reaching that milestone – or is it a millstone? – in June, only five members of SA’s squad at this World Cup could still be around when the tournament turns up in England in 2019.

That makes Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw, David Miller, Kyle Abbott and Wayne Parnell the future, although four years is a long time in cricket and the landscape could change significantly by the time another squad is put on the plane with instructions to bring back the trophy.

Morne van Wyk, Colin Ingram and Vaughn van Jaarsveld are also longer rather than shorter in the tooth. So the batting torch passes to players like Theunis de Bruyn, Jon-Smuts and Rudi Second.

Among bowlers, hopes will be high for Kagiso Rabada, Marchant de Lange, Dwaine Pretorius, and Eddie Leie to break through the domestic ceiling.

But predicting the future is folly. Injuries, burnout and the emergence of bright young things can and will change any or all of the above. And there is every chance that one or more of the older players will find ways to extend their careers.

Russell Domingo seemed to hope so when he said on the squad’s arrival back in SA on Friday: “I think some of these guys will still be around in 2019; they will only get better with time.

“We don’t want players to make emotional decisions of think of retiring.”

All good, but it will worry cricketminded South Africans that too many of the leading franchise players are more than halfway through their careers.

Perhaps SA’s cupboard of players who have significant futures at international level is indeed more bare than usual. Perhaps it just looks that way in the wake of a difficult few days.

But cricket, like life, goes on – win or lose.

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