- Cricket South Africa’s Solidarity Cup, which will launch the new 3 Team Cricket format, can’t be expected to showcase its players at full match fitness.
- Some of the players were even nervous about having to perform at a high level when lockdown hasn’t allowed them a proper pre-season of sorts.
- Graeme Smith, national director of cricket, though believes the players’ challenge in terms of returning to fitness under lockdown is a ‘nice story to tell’.
While next week’s Solidarity Cup, the event that will launch Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) new, quirky 3 Team Cricket format, is a significant step towards the Proteas regaining some of the match fitness lost during lockdown, it certainly won’t be a silver bullet.
Graeme Smith, national director of cricket, noted that an extended national pool of players – understood to be 44 – have been on “extensive training programmes” for the past six weeks, but fitness gurus across the board have said that these men now need skill-specific training.
The Solidarity Cup’s reasonably forgiving nature – two halves of 18 overs each – means the 24 players on show probably won’t be unduly burdened physically.
However, supporters tuning in also shouldn’t expect Kagiso Rabada or Lungi Ngidi steaming in at full tilt.
“We’d be amiss to think our players are going to be 100% when the action starts,” said Smith.
“They’ve handled the buildup, they’ve handled the lockdown well and done elements of training. But they haven’t been able to get extensive cricket or outdoor training that one would normally expect of a player before a series starts.”
Some of the involved players, notably the Kingfishers’ Chris Morris, have even plead that people shouldn’t expect the players to be performing at an optimum level.
“Talking to the players when we discussed the concept, some of them were nervous,” said Francois Pienaar, the former Bok captain who has been instrumental in the organisation of the event.
“A guy like Chris said he won’t be able to bowl at 100%, KG might also not be quite ready because of lockdown. They weren’t able to train the way they wanted to. But we told them we are all doing this in solidarity. It’s a new format. We reiterated to them that this is so-called Beta version of the game.”
Smith though sees an opportunity in that challenge too.
“It’s going to be a nice journey, a nice story to tell about how the players’ lockdown has been, how they’ve managed to stay afloat as professional athletes.”
– Compiled by Sport24 Staff