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SA20 is like a golden elephant in South Africa’s closet.


In all the fuss about South Africa’s men’s WTC series in New Zealand in February, it’s easy to forget that not much could or could be done, that the two matches were on the FTP almost five months before the SA20, and that South Africa shouldn’t make New Zealand’s problems their own.

The end of India’s tour of South Africa is set for January 7. It will be right after the SA20, which ran this year from January 10 to February 12. So, players in the SA20 won’t be able to get to New Zealand in time for the Tests from February 4 to 17 in Mount Maunganui and Hamilton.

How many people? Only Dean Elgar and Tony de Zorzi did not play in this year’s SA20. The last Test South Africa played was against West Indies at the Wanderers in March.

Why wouldn’t the players rather play in the Tests instead of just another T20 tournament? They have no other choice. As part of the contracts South Africa’s players signed with CSA, the SA20 has been put at the top of their list of responsibilities. They have to treat the SA20 as if it were sacred.

“Because of our contractual obligations to the SA20 and because I’ve bet everything on the SA20 and CSA has bet everything on the SA20, we have to guarantee players for the SA20,” Pholetsi Moseki, CSA’s chief executive, told Cricadda on Friday. “So, yes, you’re right. We have put a lot of money on the SA20 being a success, and a big part of that was making sure that the stars would be there.

The SA20 is the big, shiny elephant in the room. It gets in the way of the international game, but without it, professional cricket in South Africa would be out of business in a few short years. People who think that playing for South Africa is more important than anything else are living in the past.

So, unless they get them at the sale, players like Aiden Markram, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, Ryan Rickelton, Heinrich Klaasen, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, and Lungi Ngidi probably won’t be on the Test team in New Zealand.

Is New Zealand really that crowded? From December 20 to January 21, they will play white-ball games at home against Bangladesh and Pakistan. After that, they will play South Africa. From February 21 to March 8, they will play three T20Is and two Tests against Australia. There are only four days between when South Africa’s tour ends and when Australia’s begins. And, like South Africa, New Zealand doesn’t have enough players to have different Test and white-ball teams.

How to act? CSA has suggested to NZC that the two Tests be played in New Zealand in April. This won’t work. From about the last week of March to the end of May, the IPL, which is the most important event in cricket every year, will take over the game all over the world.

“During the IPL, we both lose a lot of players, so I was hoping that at least they would see that as making it more fair,” Moseki said. “They did not want to do it. I didn’t exactly agree with it, but I thought it might have helped the situation. I couldn’t think of any other time unless we could pull off a surprise like playing in a neutral country, which I don’t think is possible because they want to host the games.”

The Kiwis also don’t like the idea of playing the matches in South Africa in August, which is a possible option. Since they didn’t start the problem, they shouldn’t have to give up their home edge.

How could these bad things have been prevented? Moseki said, “That’s what we’ve been thinking about for the last 72 hours, trying to figure out if we missed something.” “We did everything we could to fix it, but the fact is that the leagues, including ours, are making the foreign schedule shorter. When the groups are added, it gets even smaller. The ICC also holds games every year. Everyone is trying to fit as much as they can into that small area.

“I can’t think of anything else that could have been done. This is the bad news for cricket around the world right now and for the next few years. But in the last 72 hours, I’ve been so angry! So I went back to the guys and had another look. I don’t know what else we could have done besides say we weren’t going to show up, which is never a good idea.”

South Africa did just that for three ODIs in Australia in January, because they needed their players for the SA20. South Africa came dangerously close to having to qualify for this year’s World Cup by giving up those WCSL points.

“Because we were so focused on the SA20, some people seemed to think it was an easy choice, but it wasn’t,” Moseki said. “This time, I would be very hesitant to do that. I would look for ways to save the situation before we gave up. That would be the nuclear choice, but I wouldn’t want that to happen. Because we didn’t have any other choice.

“I’m not completely upset with the Kiwis. I know that they tried to make things work for us. I’ve been slow to blame them because I still think there might be something we could do. Still, I talk to them. I really didn’t like the Australians because I thought there were other choices. They just didn’t want to take any of them. I know that we and New Zealand are both in a tight spot.”

All of this is happening in South Africa against a wild background of public anger and abuse. This is because the CSA has been so good at shooting itself in the foot and in other places in the not-too-distant past, and because it is still racist to think that black people are smart enough to run anything well. It can seem like cricket-loving South Africans love nothing more than to complain about how the mostly black-run CSA is doing.

“Because of our history and the damage we caused, they always think the worst of us,” Moseki said. “Then came the problems of the last 72 hours; in fact, the problems of the last few weeks. This week, I’ve gotten five to ten years older.”

Hold on. Another 72 hours are coming, and the clock is still going.

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