Success does not come by chance

HARARE - South Africa didn’t just wake up one morning and found themselves the best Test cricket team in the world.

It’s the fruits of hard labour, far-sighted planning and most importantly – the politicking that frequent big sports organisations like Cricket South Africa aside – there obviously has to be something good, administrative wise, the folks at CSA are doing.

Player development is one of those things that CSA has done extremely well.

Nine years ago, back in 2005, I travelled to Pretoria with Zimbabwe for a brief warm-up tour in preparation for Bangladesh’s visit here.

The South Africans fielded academy and provincial sides, while ours – during that era of Test exile – was our strongest squad at the time.

Dean Elgar was one of those South African rookie cricketers clearly relishing the opportunity of playing against a national team. Today, nine years later, at 27, he is one of the better batsmen in the Proteas side set to take on the very players he probably adored back then.

Not just that. Elgar comes to Zimbabwe fresh from a maiden overseas Test century, helping his team achieve a remarkable series win in the testing and historically difficult-to-overcome conditions of Sri Lanka.

11 Tests into his international career, Elgar has already smashed two centuries. Compare that with two of our better batsmen, Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza, who have four and three tons to their names in 19 and 25 Tests.

Here’s the point. Player development is key to a team’s success.

Handing out new caps must be gradual, and natural. 

Any team that loses players of Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith’s calibre will feel catch a cold, but then step by step, with a sound high performance programme that allows for young talented players to be moulded for the bigger stage, replacements will be ready to make the step up.

That has not been the case with us, unfortunately.

Pace spearheaded, Kyle Jarvis, and leading spinner Graeme Cremer were lost to premature retirement, while Chris Mpofu – who carried the burden our bowling for so long – is out of contract.

Respected bowling and batting coaches were jettisoned and gladly taken by other countries.

Let’s just hope we put on a decent performance in the Test that begins tomorrow. More importantly, big lessons, on and off the pitch, must be learnt from the best in the world.

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