Now, calls have come for his axe on the eve of the 2022 T20 World Cup following his horrid series against India where he scored 0(4), 0(7), and 0(8) while Hendricks sat on the sidelines. Although he led South Africa courageously in the 2021 T20 World Cup and handled Quinton de Kock during tough times, an average of 23.54 with 116.49 strike rate is way below par for a modern T20 opening batter.
Although Bavuma has rightly faced criticism, there has been lots of slander and accusations that he is only in the XI to fulfill the quota. We will explore this and debunk some myths.
Quota System in South African Cricket: The Complete Guide
*Disclaimer: I am trying to learn about this from an outsider’s point of view. Hence, this research is conducted through official documents from the South African cricket board with the hope of an unbiased analysis.
In the SA cricket board’s 2021 Integrated Report, they further elaborate that “Transformation is about improved access, fair opportunity and support for all South Africans, within and beyond the boundaries of the cricket field.”
Key Points on Quota & Selections
The document provides an insight into how transformation targets play an part in South African cricket’s selection. Here is a brief summary with quotes from the official document. Some interesting finds.
“It is expected that the selection committee will play its role in ensuring that transformation is aggressively achieved at all levels without compromising the principle of selecting the best team based on current form and the pitch or game conditions.
“When selection between two players is debatable and neither is a clear choice (e.g. both have similar track records and ability), where relevant, preferencemust be given to the player of colour.“
“In measuring our transformation progress, the panel will be measured on a season average basis rather than on a match-by-match basis.”
“Special attention must be given to the development and the creation of opportunities to play black African cricketers at all levels”
“We acknowledge that transformation ins not progressing as fast as it could.”
South African Cricket Transformation Target: The Rules
The targets must be met as per the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) scorecard projections. By the latest transformation targets, on average about 6 players of color, including 2 black African cricketers should be in the playing XI.
Not only that, but the transformation target is also implemented all throughout South Africa’s cricketing system, from age-level groups to senior internationals.
Here is a truncated version of the projections for the men’s cricket team for the next decade.
Forecast December 2022 % Black African
Forecast December 2026% Black African
Forecast December 2030 % Black African
Senior International Team
South Africa A/Emerging/U-19
SA School & Colts
U-17 National Camp
Forecast December 2022 % Generic Black
Forecast December 2026% Generic Black
Forecast December 2030 % Generic Black
Senior International Team
South Africa A/Emerging/U-19
SA School & Colts
U-17 National Camp
So, how does this work?
For South Africa’s senior men team, in 2022, 24% of the players should be Black Africans while 50% overall should be colored.
This means about 2-3 Black African players and 5-6 colored members should be in the XI, while the corresponding figures are 3-4 Black African and 7-8 colored in the squad of 15.
By 2030, the figures will rise to 32% and 60% respectively i.e. the South African XI may need to have an average of 7 colored players (3-4 Black Africans).
One thing to note is that consistently in junior level cricket, the transformation target percentages are a lot higher than the international requirement. This definitely sheds a light on the focus of changing the system from the grassroots level and hoping to have an impact in the international level down the road.
The SA20 has no transformation targets (this could be a cause of conflict in the future. If the homegrown South African T20 league does not have transformation requirement since it is in the franchise model, why should the other parts of SA cricket have it? This may have been a factor in no interest for Bavuma in the SA20 auction).
What Happens if Transformation Targets are not Fulfilled by South African Cricket?
To demonstrate how detailed the transformation targets are, here are the results from the 2020/21 selection report statistics.
The Senior Women had an “on-field Black demographic representation of 48% against CSA target of 50%.” In particular,
Among the 154 selections for the women’s team, the proportions were
Women’s ODIs: 45 White, 22 Black African, 8 Colored, 13 Indian
Women’s T20Is: 35 White, 21 Black African, 4 Colored, 6 Indian
The Proteas Men met their Black African player target for EPG 2020 – but did not meet is Black target.
South African Contracted Players
From the 16 nationally contracted players, the proportion is: 8 White, 2 Colored, 4 – Black African, 2 – Indian. 116 selections (62%) of all the 187 selections came from these contracted players. The other 71 selections (38%) came from 16 non-contracted – 10 White, 3 Colored, 3 Black African, 0 Indian. In particular,
Men’s T20I: 59 White, 24 Black African, 17 Colored, 10 Indian
So Where Does South Africa’s 2022 T20 World Cup Squad Stand?
So let’s get back to the question at the beginning. Where does Temba Bavuma fit in this conversation?
The World Cup squad has 3 Black Africans, 8 White, and 7 Colored players.
Black African: Temba Bavuma, Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada
Colored: Reeza Hendricks, Wayne Parnell
Indian: Keshav Maharaj, Tabraiz Shamsi
White: Quinton de Kock, Heinrich Klassen, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Anrich Nortje, Rilee Rossouw, Tristan Stubbs, Marco Jansen
Can South Africa Afford to Drop Temba Bavuma?
In short, yes…if they play both Lungi Ngidi & Kagiso Rabada.
South Africa’s quota concern for the upcoming world cup is NOT Temba Bavuma. Instead, it may be how to balance the bowlers.
With Quinton de Kock-Rilee Rossouw-Aiden Markram-David Miller-Tristan Stubbs, South Africa have a very stable and explosive core of batters. Since no adjustment can be made in the middle order, SA will have to fit all their colored players in the bowling line up. For example, in the India vs South Africa ODI, they went with a bowling line up Parnell, Maharaj, Rabada, Shamsi, and Ngidi (which is all good for now since they are in decent form).
In conclusion, regardless of SA’s choice to play Bavuma or Hendricks, the quota is not impacted. However, with Parnell, Ngidi, and Rabada almost certainties, Nortje & Jansen might be in the sidelines.
None of this actually matters since the first tenet of the transformation goals is to select the best team on the day and the targets will be calculated on average at the end of the season.
Should South Africa Drop Temba Bavuma?
It is never a good sign to drop a captain on the eve of a World Cup, so Bavuma should still be in the squad for sure. However, it may still be good to give Reeza Hendricks some game time since he was in red-hot form.
It may be worth dropping Bavuma down the order and play him as an insurance policy to stem the flow of wickets in case of a collapse rather than as an opening batter.
Instead of going with an unchanged XI, Vernon Philander (injured in the prior couple of games) replaced Kyle Abbott, who had a good tournament till that point. Later, it was revealed that the South African administrators called the coach/captain and interfered with the selection process.
This broke the team apart and unraveled the heights of the 2007-2015. Kyle Abbott took a Kolpak deal, while Philander retired early. Philander, himself is quoted that there are no hard feelings between him and Abbott.
“When I go to Durban, I have a beer with Kyle. There are no hard feelings between us two. But the point is: Cricket SA must sort out their stuff. What happened was a knock to both of us.”
Where Does South African Cricket Go from Here?
Kevin Pietersen’s exodus to England had already signaled for things to come due to unofficial quotas in the early days. However, South African cricket’s success had hidden the internal conflicts under the carpet.
The Khaya Zondo case revealed that several black African cricketers were picked, but only to ‘make up the numbers and carry the drinks.’ Michael Holding in his conversation with Makhaya Ntini expressed in the SJN hearings how secluded Ntini felt. Kagiso Rabada has been over bowled and not rested/rotated because he ticks the boxes and is really good.
From Faf du Plessis’ “we don’t see color,’ to AB de Villiers’ captaincy hesitations to the SJN hearings, Black Lives Matters, kneeling, etc., the matter is more complex than it seems from the outside.
Is the Transformation Quota System the way to go for South African cricket?
South Africa is not the only country to combat this issue. In the United States, Affirmative Action & India’s reservations with the Mandal Commission have similarly been implemented and received backlash at some point or time or another.
In my own analysis, I did not like treating human beings as statistics and separating them by categories. I am sure as the years go by the implementation will become less strict as equal opportunities would create more organically grown diverse players.
So, is the quota system the best way to go for South African cricket?
I’m not in the best way to answer that, but in order to reverse the prejudice of centuries of discrimination, systematic and grassroots changes are indeed needed.
What do you think about the quota system in South African cricket?
Sources and Further Reading on Quota System in South African Cricket
Winners of the 1975 ODI World Cup, 1979 ODI World Cup, and Runner Up in the 1983 ODI WC (regarded as a massive upset), Clive Lloyd’s men etched their name into glory.They were world beaters in Test match cricket as well with towering fast bowlers even till the mid-1990s.
Most Consecutive Test Series without defeat (29), from 1980-1995
Clive Lloyd (C), Garfield Sobers, Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Sir Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Lance Gibbs, Colin Croft, Deryck Murray, Lawrence Rowe, Alvin Kallicharan, Roy Fredericks, Rohan Kanhai, Larry Gomes
2020 T20 World Cup, 2022 ODI World Cup, 2022 Commonwealth Gold, 26 Winning ODI Streak (2018-2021)
Women’s cricket in Australia was always going to be one step forward due to awareness and funding. They have most of the ODI and T20 World Cups anyway, so how much better could this team be?
Well, this team is very, very good. They do not lose Test matches, have only lost a couple of ODIs in the last four years, and when it seemed the gas was running out, Ash Gardner & co made sure Australia had the mental strength to comeback from jaws of defeat. All this with the great Ellyse Perry on the sidelines.
16 Series Without Defeat (2001-2004) followed by 9 series (2005-2008)
Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Justin Langer, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Shane Watson, Andrew Symonds, Michael Bevan, Mark Waugh, Dean Jones, Darren Lehmann, Damien Martyn, Stuart MacGill, Jason Gillespie, Simon Katich, Brad Hogg, Brad Hodge, Michael Kasprowicz, Andy Bichel, Nathan Bracken
During this era, South Africa did not win a World Cup. Nor did they establish absolute dominance, but the thing was in an era where the Australian side had begun their descent, no team in the world was quite as strong.
South Africa though challenged teams all around the world, most notably winning in Australia and drawing in India. The era finally collapsed after 2015-16 season, but they gave it all in their final stand – The Blockathon.
14 series without defeat (2008-14)
Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, AB De Villiers, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Mark Boucher, Vernon Philander, JP Duminy, David Miller, Imran Tahir, Shaun Pollock (end of career), Makhaya Ntini (end of career), Ashwell Prince
Most World Cup winning teams are some of the greatest teams in a nations history, but why did I choose the England 2015-2022 team? It is because of the dominant nature of their high risk ODI cricket that they became famous for. Started by Brendon McCullum in the 2015 ODI World Cup, Eoin Morgan took the baton and carried England forward.
Yes flat pitches, bigger bats, and all but 498/4, 481/6, 444/3, 418/6, 408/9, & 399/6 is just another level of dominance. High risk meant that they lost more often, but they changed ODI cricket forever.
Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Alex Hales, Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali, David Willey, Sam Curran, Mark Wood, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, James Vince, Joe Denly
Sri Lanka (1996-2015), Pakistan (1985-1999), India (2008-2013), India (2018-present), South Africa (1992-1999), England (2008-2011)
Do you agree that these are the greatest cricket teams? Comment below and let us know.
3 Indian Cricketers Who Deserve More Chances in T20I
Despite rests for Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and injuries to Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, and Suryakumar Yadav, three players could not find a spot in the 18-man squad. It is hard for anyone to break into the Indian team these days, but team India is making a huge mistake by not giving them a chance at all.
Eight years ago, Prithvi Shaw burst onto the scene by scoring 546 (330) in a school competition. Comparisons to Sachin Tendulkar were inevitable (and even Sehwag & Lara for that matter). He then won the U-19 WC as captain and has produced runs at the domestic circuit and IPL level.
Things looked bright, but he has only played 5 Tests (1 century, 2 50s), 6 ODIs, and a sole T20I (debut golden duck by the way).
History of fitness issues has not helped advance Shaw’s case, and he has often been depicted as ‘careless’ or ‘carefree’ in his batting approach. However, this is exactly the need of the hour for Indian cricket in T20Is.
Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Shreyas Iyer, Virat Kohli, Mayank Agarwal, and even Ishan Kishan play a similar brand of cricket as openers, but Shaw is a breath of fresh air. This season he has produced knocks of
And when he has not gone big, he has knocked singles and made sure the partnership with David Warner flourishes. Prithvi Shaw might not rack up the running charts and stay till the end, but what he provides is worth much more – an impetus to the team from Ball One of the match.
The real question is, will he even get an audition for the T20 WC squad?
Rahul Tripathi was always considered one of those key Indian uncapped players who ‘punches above his weight’ and ‘provides a bit of spark and energy in the field,’ but has always been seen a level below international quality (like a Swapnil Asnodkar, Manvinder Bisla, Nitish Rana, and now Rajat Patidar).
But has Rahul Tripathi been unfairly pigeonholed? He batted with flair this year at SRH (413 Runs, 3 50s, 158.24 SR) and was the catalyst behind KKR’s run to the final last year (397 runs, 2 50s, 140.28 SR). His highest score in each of the last 6 IPLs read
93, 80*, 50, 81, 74*, 76
This means that when he is in the mood, he goes big. But more than the stats, it is Tripathi’s infectious attitude while batting. He starts hitting from ball 1, can float anywhere in the batting lineup, and adapts to any situation. Fast bowlers, spinners, doesn’t matter. 120/2 or 0/1 – he comes in with the same aggression and mindset as a modern day #3 batter should.
Mitchell Marsh, Moeen Ali, Dawid Malan, Mohammad Hafeez, and Devon Conway are the template to bat at #3 these days. Gone are the days of Steve Smith and Virat Kohli steadying the pace.
Tripathi has done all in his power to showcase his ability, but will he ever get a chance?
Sanju Samson has been the most ill-treated of them all. Samson has barely received any chances at the international level since his debut in 2015:
1 T20 Vs Zimbabwe (2015), 1 Vs SL (Jan 2020), 2 Vs NZ (Jan-Feb 2020), 3 Vs Aus (Dec 2020), 3 Vs SL (Jul 2021), 3 Vs SL (Feb 2022).
There is barely any continuity. In his last series in February,he did not bat in the first T20I and scored his personal best – a crucial 39 (25) with 2 fours & 3 sixes at #4. Yet, he has been dropped while the likes of Ishan Kishan & Venkatesh Iyer have been retained despite poor IPL form. What message are the selectors and coach sending?
In Qualifier 1 of IPL 2022, Samson gave an apt reply with the bat.
First ball he faced – SIX! What followed was carnage. His next scoring shots were 4,4,4,6,6. He scored 30 (13) before he even took a single. Now, that is T20 mentality!
That 47 (26) was a more impactful innings than Jos Buttler’s 89 (56).
Sanju Samson and the IPL Inconsistency Myth
He has been on the IPL scene since 2013 but has always carried the perception of ‘inconsistency’, ‘not enough domestic runs’, or ‘throws his wicket away.’
Let us dig a bit deeper. This may have been true from 2013-2016 (where his average hovered between 20.4-26.45 & SR between 112.35-125.15). In each of those years, he would make one or two sparkling fifties and then fall off.
However, from 2017-2022, he has scored 3 hundreds, 12 fifties, striking it between 136.72-150.36 and averaging between 30.07-40.33. Runs in these five years?
386, 441, 342, 375, 484, 421*
His numbers might not be KL Rahul-esque (659, 593, 670, 626, 616) whose SR hovers around 135. Rahul plays an opener/anchor role, while Samson is the middle order intent batter who can keep the game moving and hit spinners out of the attack.
In essence, Sanju Samson has become more consistent, more lethal, and a true match winner.
Prithvi Shaw, Rahul Tripathi, and Sanju Samson, literally the only three Indian batters with a modern day T20 batting mindset, were omitted from the South Africa squad list. Although India has about 24 T20Is to try out new players before the 2022 T20 World Cup later this year, their exclusion reveals India’s reluctance to play ultra-aggressive cricket.
Among Indian players, only Dinesh Karthik (187. 28), Rajat Patidar (156.25), Shivam Dube (156.21), Rishabh Pant (151.78) have comparable Strike Rates. Samson, Tripathi, and Shaw have taken the leap of faith with risk & reward. The real question is, will Indian selectors?
“When you’re doing a role like this. In T20s, when you are there to hit sixes…you need to have guts inside yourself, you need to be brave enough to do that role…failures will happen…If I get to play, I play. If I don’t, I don’t.”
“I am not here to score lots and lots of runs…I am here to score a small amount of runs which are very effective for the team.”
India Need to Revive the Memories of 2007
India last won a T20 World Cup way back in 2007. It was the inaugural edition, nobody knew what this beast T20 cricket would come, and the IPL had yet to be announced.
Stalwarts Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and Sourav Ganguly stepped aside to give youngsters a chance. Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Sreesanth, Joginder Sharma, RP Singh, and even the timeless Dinesh Karthik would make the squad. The Pathan brothers, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, and Virender Sehwag were the ‘seniors’ in the side lead under a certain captain MS Dhoni.
And guess what happened? India won—a young team with nothing to lose who just went out there, took risks, and expressed themselves.
Fast forward 15 years and 6 T20 World Cups later, India has yet to win another trophy. What’s worse? They have not even played close to their potential (Virat Kohli dragged into the finals and semi-finals of the 2014 & 2016 editions).
It might be time for a couple of seniors to step aside and give a free reign to players who can go there and play their natural, free-flowing, expressive cricket.
A simple word that carries immense burden. What defines greatness in sports? Statistical brilliance, nostalgia, longevity? In cricketing terms, 99.94, memories like Brett Lee vs Sachin Tendulkar, 100 Tests, or 15 years+ career?
Legacies are largely depended on the final days in the international arena. Retirement has always been a tricky issue in cricket.
Sourav Ganguly’s Ian Chappell saga tarnished his otherwise positive legacy. A poor 2007 Cricket World Cup ended dreams for Brian Lara & Inzamam ul-Haq. Simon Jones’ career ended before it could start due to injuries.
Some overstay and risk going out on a low. Others like German soccer captain Philipp Lahm retired internationally at the age of just 30 after winning the FIFA World Cup in 2014.
The Lost Generation
Today we dive deep into the careers of the lost generation of 2005—Alastair Cook, AB De Villiers, Michael Clarke, and Hashim Amla, all of them would retire prematurely.
With the triple retirement of Dale Steyn, Brendon Taylor, and Lasith Malinga, the legendary class of 2004-06 is coming to a close. Only Broad-Anderson & Ross Taylor remain from the greats of this era.
Sandwiched between the 90s golden generations of Sangakkara-Jayawardene-Muralitharan, Tendulkar-Laxman-Ganguly-Dravid, Kallis-Pollock-Boucher-Ntini, Inzamam-Yousuf, Ponting led Australia, & the Fab 4 (Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith), there was the class of 2004 & 2005.
Why did these cricketers retire so soon? How does the future look like? Read till the end for our in-deptj analysis & final thoughts.
11 Cricketers Who Retired Too Early
While legends of the past played 12-15 years, the cricketers in this list only had about 9-12 years of international cricket. The fact that they followed the golden generation lead to slightly later debuts and hence, even shorter careers.
One of the clear indications of the early retirement for the batters is the statistics. Most did not cross 10,000, their averages fell below 50, and the centuries hovered between 25-27 (although at one stage it seemed each of these players would break them all).
Anderson’s long career seems like he is on another level (which he is) but in all reality, at one stage, all of these players would have careers as long as Jimmy Anderson.
The players in this list were not dropped. They retired on their own terms or because of other circumstances. Hence, we exclude players like Ian Bell, Virender Sehwag, Umar Gul, Suresh Raina, and Gautam Gambhir who were available for selection but were unfortunately dropped from the team plans later in their career.
Retiring on a high is every cricketer’s dream. Captaining Australia to a victory at home in front of the MCG crowd must have been a surreal experience. A few months later, the Ashes would be his final appearance. One of the bests #4 batters of all-time with a godly conversion rate in Tests. The 2012-13 season would always be remembered as Clarke’s year, the only batter to score 4 double centuries in a year.
At one point in time, he was touted to overtake Sachin Tendulkar as the highest run-scorer and century maker having scored 5000 runs at 26. Will always be remembered for the 2010-11 Ashes series down under. However, loss of form and inconsistency creeped in. Tougher playing conditions, 159 Tests in a row, and the KP saga probably got to him. Century in his first and last Tests against India showed that he still had it in him. Still the best opener in England?
Due to his late debut, it was inevitable that Strauss would not have an extremely long career, but England fans learned how great Andrew Strauss was after his retirement, for both his captaincy & batting. Since the Cook-Strauss partnership ended, England could not find a stable partner for Cook (and Cook’s effectiveness also decreased). KP himself said in an interview that the text-messaging scandal on the eve of Strauss’s 100th Test was one of his biggest mistakes, which tarnished Strauss’ last match. Later became ECB’s Director of cricket and subsequently received knighthood for his service to English cricket.
See Strauss above. Jokes aside, KP’s career had always been hampered by controversies. Although he had to leave South Africa and debuted relatively late, he quickly established himself as one of the greatest in his generation. Key contributor to the 2005 Ashes, 2012 India series, and 2010 T20 World Cup victories, he was a key component of driving English cricket forward. Although he was England’s highest scorerin the Mitchell Johnson 2015 series, he was a casualty of the 5-0 defeat. Poor relationship with Strauss & coach Andy Flower did not help as the management decided that KP’s career is over.
KP might have been controversial off the field, but there is no doubt he changed cricket for the better. Fast forward 15 years, everybody has an inner KP with the switch hits & aggressive mindset. Paved the way for English cricketers to join the IPL & other T20 leagues, thereby moving England one step closer to their eventual 2019 World Cup winning campaign.
T20Is: 39 Matches, 51 wickets, 16.84 average, 3/13 best
T20s: 80 Matches, 98 wickets, 18.88 average, 3/13 best
Cricketers Who Retired Trivia
Debut: January 22, 2000 (ODI), December 10-14, 2008 (Test)
Last Match: December 12-16, 2013 (Test)
Age Debuted: 29(Test), 20 (ODI)
Age Retired: 34
Why Did He Retire?
Statistically, Swann does not make the best bowlers of all-time list, but what he did in his 5-year Test career was continued the art of off-spin. After T20 cricket & ODI Powerplay rule changes, leg spinners flourished in the 2010s. Except for Daniel Vettori, finger spin was a dying art. Swann took off-spin forward and became a cog of the famed 2010-11 English lineup. Late Test debut, an elbow injury, and Johnson 2013 ensured that he retired mid-series (after the 3rd Test).
T20Is: 64 Matches, 85 wickets, 17.83 average, 4/19 best
T20s: 195 Matches, 271 wickets, 17.36 average, 4/14 best
Cricketers Who Retired Trivia
Debut: July 1, 2008 (ODI)
Last Match: April 23, 2015 (T20I)
Age Debuted: 31
Age Retired: 37
Why Did He Retire?
Another one who debuted late, but made an immediate impact. From the cricketers who retired too early, Saeed Ajmal’s ending was probably the saddest. During Pakistan’s toughest days, Saeed Ajmal & Umar Gul took Pakistan to great heights, especially in T20 cricket. However it was his action that was his downfall. Unlike Mohammad Hafeez & Sunil Narine, Ajmal’s remodeled action was not effective enough without the doosra. Will definitely go down as a Pakistani great.
T20Is: 44 Matches, 47 wickets, 25.34 average, 4/17 best
T20s: 190 Matches, 207 wickets, 25.29 average, 4/17 best
Cricketers Who Retired Trivia
Debut: December 25-29, 2006 (Test)
Last Match: March 29-April 2, 2018 (Test)
Age Debuted: 22
Age Retired: 33
Current Age: 36
Plays with Brisbane Heat in the BBL; Was at Surrey from 2018-2020
Why Did He Retire?
When Morne Morkel left international cricket after that Australia series for the Kolpak deal in England (with Surrey), it signaled the beginning of the end of the great 2008-2015 South Africa generation. From 2015-2019, each one slowly retired, and it was painful to watch South Africa collapse to new lows. What was not painful, however, was Morne Mornel’s bowling. High arm action, pace & bounce, & most importantly, consistent line & length. Dale Steyn would not have been as successful had he not had Morne on the other end as the ideal foil. Morkel, in his own right, will go down as a South African great. With 309 wickets at age 33, who knows, he could have gone past Steyn himself. Now a resident of Australia and plays in the BBL as a local cricketer.
Fastest to 10, 15, 16,17, 18, 20, 27 centuries & 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, and 7000 ODI runs, he was the only contemporary of Virat Kohli who could challenge him. South Africa’s fall from grace was confirmed in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, and it was especially painful to watch Amla being hit in the head by Jofra Archer and retiring hurt. He would retire at the end of the tournament. Sublime cricketer, wonderful human being, he still architects blockathons on the County Circuit. You just help but wonder if South Africa should have persisted a year or so more for his form to come back.
Will he? Won’t he? Speculation about AB De Villiers’ retirement has been as spicy as Hollywood gossip. It all began with the ghost of 2015 semi-finals loss, which he captained. He would then get the Test captaincy job, a dream for a long time. However, workload management & administrative struggles became a hassle. Picking & choosing on a series-by-series basis followed by an indefinite break was a sign of what was to come. He came back in brilliant home with Test series against India and Australia.
However a video retirement a year before the ODI World Cup took everyone by surprise. Since then, he has been in multiple conversations about coming for the 2019 ODI World Cup or 2021 T20 World Cup, but those conversations have not gone too far. He can still be seen smashing it out of the park in the IPL. He is still fit, takes mind boggling catches, and plays match changing innings even after no game practice for a year.Although ABD & Amla played 14 years, they could have been Tendulkar-esque with a career of 17-21 years in another era.
The best batter of the generation and the face of “Cricketers Who Retired Too Early.”
Given captaincy at a young age, Smith began the rebuilding of a squad that would take South AFrica to #1 Test rankings. One of the best openers of this era, his courage & leadership came to the fore. Batting with a broken hand to save a Test will in fans’ memories forever. Now the director of cricket for South Africa.
Plays for RCB in the IPL, SKNP in CPL, and the West Indies
*subject to change. He is selected in West Indies’ 2021 T20 World Cup squad
Surprised? Well, you should be.
Chris Gayle is the antithesis to the 2005 generated. Debuted in 1999, and he is still playing at the age of 42. 100 Test matches, a triple century, an ODI double century, 10000 ODI runs, 14000+ T20 runs (with 22 100s!), he is a legend. So how did he survive so long even though he can barely run?
The answer is enough breaks. While the 2005 generation succumbed to continuous burnout, Gayle was in-and-out of the international side, played T20 leagues around the world, and gave up first class/Test cricket in 2014 to prolong his career. A couple of World Cup wins also helps keeping the fire going.
2004-07 Generation: Ross Taylor (New Zealand), Brendon Taylor (Zimbabwe), Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad (England), Dale Steyn (South Africa)
The Surviving Outliers
The main point to notice here is that those who played continuous cricket from 2005-2015 retired too soon.
However, there are plenty of cricketers who did not get a chance early on or were in-and-out of their national sides, but are still available for selection today. These players include Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, and the 2004 U-19 Cricket World Cup class of Shikhar Dhawan, Fawad Alam, Mahmudullah Riyadh, Dinesh Karthik, Ambati Rayudu, Tim Paine, Moises Henriques, William Porterfield, Kevin O’Brien, Wahab Riaz, who are still playing competitively and are available for international selection.
Since they did not get a chance earlier or play for lower-ranked teams, they are making the most of it now when opportunities finally came their way.
Hunger for success have caused these batch of cricketers to elongate their careers. To prove themselves as long as they are fit. Or to be a part of that elusive World Cup winning team.
Why Did The 2005 Generation Fall So Quickly?
If we analyze these 10 cricketers who retired too early a bit more closer, we notice they mostly feature from England, South Africa, or Australia.
All of these teams went through a traumatic transition period. The 2013-15 period was especially stressful for England. While Mitchell Johnson dismantled the entire 2013 Test generation, forcing retirements of Trott, Pietersen, & Swann, the sacking of Cook in ODIs before 2015 World Cup would usher a new era in English cricket.
For South Africa, Grant Elliot’s semi-final six broke the gem of that South African team. AB De Villiers, Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, & Vernon Philander were never the same again.
Finally, although Australia did not have it that rough, they have not really gotten back to the Warne-McGrath days. The Clarke era was the short transition between the longer lasting, Ponting & Steve Smith eras.
Frequency of World Cups
Before the 2007 T20 World Cup, world championships only happened once every 4 years. A decade earlier, we only had the 2003/2007 ODI World Cup, 2007 T20 World Cup, and 2002/2006 Champions Trophy.
Teams were built on the premises of four-year cycles. With England & Australia, the Test Teams were formed with the next Ashes cycle in mind. Then followed 2009 (CT), 2010 (T20 WC), 2011 (CWC), 2012 (T20 WC), 2013 (CT), 2014 (T20 WC), 2015 (CWC), 2016 (T20 WC), 2017 (CT), 2019 (CWC), 2021 (World Test Championship).
Frequent trophies meant teams did not have to carry players for 4 years. An in-form player could be drafted while seasoned cricketers could be dropped with the upcoming ICC trophy in mind. Hence teams started to experiment more and started taking bold calls.
Case and point 2013 Champions Trophy—India dropped Sehwag, promoted Rohit Sharma, and went with an in-form Dhawan (seems like a history repeat itself moment with Dhawan in the 2021 T20 WC team).
These cricketers who retired too early were raised on the backs of Test & ODI cricket. Almost everyone from the 90s era played both formats if they were good enough. With the entrance of T20 cricket, cricket began to be played all year long instead of season to season.
If you add captaincy to the 3 formats, that takes pressure & mental exhaustion to another level.
This still does not explain why Cook & Amla retired. They had given up captaincy towards the end, did not play all formats, and did not have new players vying for their spots either.
The obvious answer to this is form. Both Cook & Amla suffered drastic loss of forms, but so did openers worldwide.
Cook himself concluded that batting in England became tougher towards the end of his career. We can see from the Burns-Sibley partnership that it has not gotten better any since. It was not necesesarily that they were worse players, just that the conditions had become more difficult.
Kohli Shows The Way Forward
Three format players like KP and ABD prospered for a while, but it caught up with their health & form.
A decade later, it is clear that separate teams are now being picked for the 3 vastly different formats. Mental health conversations are in place. Fitness, physiotherapy, and analytics have jumped to another level altogether. Rest & rotation have been employed by certain teams to prolong the careers of cricketers.
This means that the current generation of the Fab 5 & Buttler-Stokes-Cummins-Rabada-Starc-Hazlewood-Bumrah have a better chance for longer careers and go back to the 15-year norms of the 90s. Who knows the COVID break might even have re-energized some to extend their careers.
However balance is key. Virat Kohli has already lead the way and given up IPL/T20I captaincy to manage workload and focus on other formats. If this generation of players have to survive, they might have to give up at least one format, release captaincy pressure, take mental health and paternity breaks, and keep up their fitness.
Greatness Achieved Nevertheless
Although Amla, Smith, Sehwag, Clarke, de Villiers stopped agonizingly close without reaching the coveted 10000 run-mark, it does not take away from the genius of these men.
Numbers are not everything. Although their tenure was short, their impact was not. They changed cricket for the better, and that is all that matters.
There are some players who will always give a sense that they left too early. Fans are left asking, ‘What If they had stayed on for a couple of years?’, ‘Maybe one more World Cup?’
We should just be grateful enough we witnessed some of the greatest cricketers of all time.
Cricket’s time has come. What we all feared for has finally happened.
The fifth Test between India and England was cancelled/postponed hours before the toss due to COVID-19. New Zealand similarly pulled out of Pakistan on the basis of security threats. England have followed suit and cancelled their Men’s/Women’s tour of Pakistan in October as well. There has been more cancellation than actual cricket recently.
The international cricket structure is dismantling before our eyes—overkill of cricket, the IPL takeover, an acute mental health crisis, and Pakistan’s abandonment on the world stage.
Since the return from COVID-induced break, scheduling has slowly escalated. Overkill of cricket has reached its boiling point.
Last summer, West Indies, Ireland, and Pakistan toured England in cricket’s return. IPL 2020 in UAE followed soon after. The entire world had eyes on one series or tournament at a time with enough gap in between.
However, post-vaccination, international scheduling has been torturous.
England began its tour to Sri Lanka earlier this year and stayed for the India series. Soon after, IPL 2021’s first iteration took place. Then India went to England for months. England launched the Hundred in the middle of the summer.
When the Hundred ended, the CPL began. Four days after the CPL, the IPL began. The IPL final will be held on October 15th. The much awaited T20 World Cup begins just two days later, on the 17th of October.
But wait, there’s more.
IPL All Year Round?
India begin their home season on November 17th three days after the World T20 Final. And in Jaipur. Given the depth of both India and New Zealand, it is likely they will field a second-string team. Why is there a need for a T20I series less than a week after the T20 World Cup has ended?
IPL 2020 in UAE was a joy to watch. After months, the best players of the world played cricket had gathered together without any interruptions. The balanced pitches in Abu Dhabi & Dubai were conducive to fast bowling while Sharjah provided us the stereotypical high scores.
However, September 2020, March 2021, September 2021, and March 2022…This seems to be developing into an unhealthy pattern. Add to two IPLs a year. a ten-team IPL with a big auction next year. 74 IPL matches will push India’s home series against South Africa into June. Another T20 World Cup is to follow next October.
With Trinbago Knight Riders, Saint Lucia Kings, and Barbados Royals all having IPL stake owners, the IPL takeover of the world is complete.
Mental Health Crisis At An All-Time High
A byproduct of back-to-back cricket, bubble-to-bubble travel, and IPL-to-IPL jam packed into the international calendar is recurring injuries, early retirements, and mental health breaks.
Ben Stokes has been the most prominent casualty to the mental health crisis. Personal tragedy, finger injury, recalled back to captain a COVID hit squad, IPL, The Hundred, Test matches. Stokes is 30, a prime of a sportsperson career. However due to the intense nature of the cricket calendar, he has withdrawn from the India Test series, IPL, World T20, and possibly the Ashes.
England have done their very best to preserve the physical and mental health of players irrespective of the controversial rest/rotation policy. Even with such management and resources, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, & Mark Wood have been out for extended periods of time, while Banton-Bairstow-Buttler have pulled out of the IPL & other T20 leagues.
The Ashes begins on December 8th, shortly after the T20 World Cup. England’s team selection will give us an idea of how severe the mental crisis is.
Security Threats – Is There Western Bias Against Pakistan?
Pakistan was forced to make UAE their home for a decade after the horrifying 2009 shootings amidst the Sri Lanka series. India-Pakistan relations had already taken a hit a year earlier due to the Mumbai attacks. A year later, the spot-fixing crisis feat Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif, and Salman Butt further took down Pakistan cricket.
Regardless of the outside noise, Pakistan managed to win a T20 Cricket World Cup, Champions Trophy, and #1 Test rankings in the next decade. The Misbah-Younis era slowly got Pakistan’s reputation back as a respected cricketing nation. The PCB established a decent stable Pakistan Super League despite lack of finances and IPL experience.
With ambassadors like Daren Sammy volunteering to play in Pakistan, ICC sending a World XI team in 2017, PSL hosting playoffs at home, and series against Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South Africa, cricket was finally coming back.
Afghanistan Crisis In Spotlight
However New Zealand’s abandonment has set Pakistan cricket back yet another decade. It has started a domino effect with England pulling out and maybe, Australia next in line. Ramiz Raza, the new PCB chairman, has come out strongly against the “Western bloc.”
Australia have infamously been hesitant to play non-India subcontinental opposition. They have not invited Bangladesh for a Test series for years and are now on verge of cancelling the Afghanistan Test match based on lack of a women’s team (which is a decent point, but there was no opposition when Afghanistan was awarded Test status 4 years ago).
Afghanistan’s internal crisis has cast a shadow on their involvement in the T20 World Cup, and the geopolitical situation has made things worse for Pakistan as well.
Where There Is Money, There Is a Way
There was another security threat again today. This time with respect to the New Zealand women’s teamin England. The team went in lockdown, security was boosted, communication happened, investigation took place, threat was deemed as not credible, and the match is to go ahead as scheduled.
Fans have been citing the devastating 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks in response to Pakistan-New Zealand abandoned series. The Bangladesh team were minutes away from the mosque when the incident took place. The 3rd Test was subsequently cancelled.
These two situations display that there is an implicit bias against Pakistan as opposed to the Big 4—India, Australia, England, New Zealand.
India can get away with a poorly managed COVID-19 situation in the first iteration of IPL 2021 by totally disrupting the international calendar because of their financial monopoly. The IPL/Hundred can cause a Test match cancellation.
England & Australia are free to abandon tours of South Africa due to bio-bubble breaches while touring the other Big 3 countries in worse circumstances. New Zealand escape without security backlash from the rest of the world due to their positive image and non-controversial nature.
If cricket is to sustain itself, South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe need due support from the rest.
ICC has put in better plans to raise awareness of cricket worldwide, provide structure for women’s & Associate cricket, and contextualize Test & ODI cricket. However, it first needs to ensure that cricketing culture in once prospering countries does not die away.
If cricket cannot guarantee balance in the post-COVID world—balance of powers, player wellness, security threats, & scheduling, then this is the end of cricket as we know it.
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As acclaimed twentieth century writer Khalil Gibran once remarked, “Exaggeration is truth that has lost its temper.”
India’s improbable victory in the 4th Test sent social media into frenzy. There were claims of it being the ‘greatest Test team’ going around or the ‘best Indian Test team.’ Although there is subtle merit to these claims, I argue that this is just an over exaggeration of the ground reality.
How Good Are Team India?
There is no doubt that the Indian cricket team has flourished in the 21st century. With a thriving cricketing culture, robust recruitment setup throughout the country, monetary power in the hands of the BCCI with the advent of the IPL, and a prospering India A system, India has the greatest depth and resources available.
The rise of Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Suryakumar Yadav, and Ishan Khan across formats in less than six months attests to this claim.
India came back from 0-1 to seal the Border-Gavaskar series 2-1. Stories galore and the legend of this series will carry in the minds of fans forever. Similarly, a defeat in the third Test against England did not faze India. In the 4th Test, a 99-run deficit was overcome via valiant century by Rohit Sharma and memorable contributions in both innings by Shardul Thakur.
To give you an idea how far India have come along—This is India’s 4th victory in Australia & England since December (and 8th in Australia, England, South Africa since 2018). In the decade before, India’s only moments of glory in England & Australia were Headingly 2002, Adelaide 2003, England series 2007, and Perth 2008 (coincidentally Rahul Dravid contributing with 148, 233 & 72*, captain, and 93). So this 2-1 series victory (almost) should hold well with the Indian fans, especially after the suffering endured in the 2010s.
This Indian team is good. Really good. They have the spirit to come back from any circumstance, and they just never give up. The attitude instilled by Ravi Shastri-Virat Kohli is evident in the body language of each and every player.
However, is this team the best? I do not think so.
Collapse A Day Does Not Keep The Doctor Away
Team India is brilliant at comebacks, but why is there a need of comebacks in the first place?
The 2000s Australia team set the benchmark for Test greatness. Did you ever hear them coming from dire circumstances? Well, not much because they were so dominant, a comeback was not even necessary.
The same is true for the current World Test Championship winner, the New Zealand cricket team. When they win, they win emphatically.
If India are to instill their greatness in cricketing folklore, they must replicate their home dominance away as well.
Current Batting Side Does Not Fire In Unison
KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, and Ajinkya Rahane are all good batters individually, but they have rarely fired in unison.
When the top order bats at its best, the middle order collapses. When Pujara-Pant come together, the rest of the batters have already gone to the pavilion. Kohli is not back at his best yet and Rahane seems to have fallen off the charts altogether.
Even in the horrendous tours of 2011 and 2014, I do not remember performances like 36/9 or 78/10, let alone two. The batting collapses occur too frequently to be regarded as a modern great. What made the Sehwag-Dravid-Sachin-Laxman-Ganguly era great was their consistent overseas batting performances without having the caliber of fast bowlers at their disposals in the nets to practice with.
Now India finally has the bowling attack to take 20 wickets consistently, but a batting line up that is not even close.
Greatest Indian Bowling Attack
The reason India is succeeding away from home can be attributed to two factors: (1) comparatively lower standard of opposition, and (2) fast bowling unit.
Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur provide regular breakthroughs while Jadeja and Ashwin can play both as wicket-taking options and chief controller depending on the conditions.
Since the South Africa tour of 2018, Indian bowlers have taken all 20 wickets by pace on numerous occasions. Injury replacements are readily available as well.
So is India Good, Bad, or Just Okay?
The bowling attack? The best in their nation’s history. Their batting? Eh. Not so hot.
India might have one of the best line ups on paper but are definitely not the best Test team going around. Or at least just not performing to their full potential yet. The flaws in India’s team performance combined with miraculous comebacks and recency bias actually amplify the degree of their quality. India are so bad sometimes that it brings out the best in the team. Still a long way to go achieve dominance.
In other words, India are so bad that they are actually good. Think about it.