IPL 2022, A Blessing in Disguise for South African Cricket

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South African players celebrating a wicket against Bangladesh

ICC

IPL 2022, A Blessing in Disguise for South African Cricket

Six South African players -- Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Marco Jansen, Aiden Markram, and Rassie van der Dussen -- collectively decided to play at IPL 2022 rather than in the Test series against Bangladesh. However, the Dean Elgar-led side has found new mavericks in their absence.

There was an unrealistic expectation from Bangladesh to conquer Dean Elgar’s South Africa in their own backyard after they won their first-ever series (ODI) in Rainbow Nation last month. The tourists, after almost an unthinkable achievement, were perhaps overconfident, and largely due to that, it did not happen. In fact, they endured two heavy-margin defeats, losing by 220 and 332 runs respectively.

These were supposed to be stern tests for South Africa, as their six regulars – Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Marco Jansen, Aiden Markram, and Rassie van der Dussen – collectively decided to play at the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 rather than in the Test series. But their absence made no difference, as the side found new heroes in Ryan Rickelton, Duanne Olivier, Sarel Erwee, and Lizaad Williams. At the same time, it also opened the door for Simon Harmer to make a comeback, and they had answers for every question.

Erwee and Rickelton starred with the bat, scoring 114 runs each from their respective four innings, while Harmer aggregated 78 from his three chances and took 13 wickets at an average of 15.15. Meanwhile, the speedsters, Williams and Olivier snared three scalps apiece.

Though, Bangladesh, as a whole, were shattered largely due to the brilliance of Keshav Maharaj. The 32-year-old left-arm spinner gave his best, particularly in the second innings, in both Tests. At Kingsmead in the first match, his impressive figures read 7/32, while at St George's Park in the second, he ended with 7/40 to be fittingly adjudged the Player of the Series. Incidentally, it triggered the visitors to be folded out for 53 and 80 runs respectively.

In their eight Test matches in South Africa, Bangladesh have lost all of them. In fact, with the latest results, five of them are now by an innings. It may not surprise too many, considering their lack of matches in red-ball cricket, but they were expected to be more clinical as a team after an outright ODI series win.

South Africa have produced some flamboyant cricketers in the last two decades or so, and they have been exciting and exhilarating. But before the squad announcement for the Bangladesh series, their skipper Elgar did something which had never been done in the past. He pleaded with the IPL-bound players not to go to India before the Test series. The players did not listen to their skipper and their board (Cricket South Africa) and went to play for their respective franchises in the lucrative cash-rich league.

Following their collective decision, South Africa head coach Mark Boucher opined, “They did go to the IPL and vacate their spots.” Elgar, at the post-match press conference, then revealed what he told the players before the series began. "My message for new guys was to put those guys under pressure, to go out there and make a play for yourself and make a play for the team. They mustn't undersell their value as young new cricketers," Elgar said at the post-match press conference after the series triumph.

“By giving guys experience, you create a lot more depth going forward. We are in a very fortunate and strong position by giving guys exposure at this level. Guys have put their hands up brilliantly.”

The Proteas’ next challenge in red-ball cricket will be against England in August-September. Though the Cricket South Africa (CSA) is yet to disclose if they are going to select those six players again or not, it is safe to believe that they will eventually make a comeback. And when they tour England in winter, they will have stronger bench strength, something similar to Team India and that's something that surely would not have happened had the IPL-bound players stayed there to play against Bangladesh.

With the departures of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, and the curious absence of Faf du Plessis, South Africa has been in a transition period for a while now. But now, with the youngsters stepping up at the international level, they will be relieved, at least at present. The side has certainly found options and from here on, as Elgar said, they must not undersell their value.

The future, of course, looks bright for South African cricket.

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