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Test cricket in SA is on an upward trend and is looking healthy

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Test cricket in South Africa is well and truly alive as a set of players including Nandre Burger, Tony de Zorzi, David Bedingham and Tristan Stubbs take up space in the Test arena.

Tony de Zorzi of South Africa and Kagiso Rabada celebrating after getting the wicket of Raymon Reifer of the West Indies during day 3 of the 2023 1st Betway Test Match between South Africa and West Indies held at Supersport Park in Centurion, Pretoria on 02 March 2023. Picture: Christiaan Kotze, BackpagePix

WHEN you have had to watch players of the calibre of Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy announce an end to their long and successful careers, all within a five-year time frame, any cricket structure in the world would be sent into a state of shock.

It becomes an even more dire situation when experienced heads such as Quinton de Kock and Dean Elgar follow on the same retirement trail only two years apart, leaving behind less than a handful of Proteas with at least 50 Tests under the belt.

In response to the retirements, the next logical step is to rope in domestic players with a decent number of first-class games into the national set-up, and when even those players make themselves unavailable for the longest format of the game, it becomes a concern.

That is precisely what 32-year-old Heinrich Klaasen’s retirement earlier this week meant to South African cricket.

Moreover, it added salt to the wound, a wound that Shukri Conrad’s Test squad for next month’s tour to New Zealand opened, and saw Cricket SA make headlines for ‘not prioritising’ Test cricket.

However, despite the retirements, Test cricket in South Africa is well and truly alive as a set of players including Nandre Burger, Tony de Zorzi, David Bedingham and Tristan Stubbs take up space in the Test arena.

The thrashing of India, the No.1-ranked Test team in the world, by an innings and 32 runs during the Boxing Day Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion should have set the record straight, not only here at home but also worldwide.

It should have communicated that the local domestic structure is strong enough as Test debutants Burger and Bedingham, coming straight from the 4-Day Series, walked all over India, a team that is full of international stars such as Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

Contrary to broadcaster Harsha Bhogle’s strong opinions that there are no longer standout talents coming out of South Africa, the victory in Centurion two weeks ago demonstrated that South Africa just keeps churning out world-class talent.

However, that message seems to have gone over everyone’s heads somehow as critics outside of SA cricket increase in numbers.

While the outside noise goes up a notch, noise that is led by individuals from countries with thriving cricket boards, coach Conrad’s succession plan is in full flow and the days of rebuilding will soon be a thing of the past.

With a quick glance at the main Proteas Test squad, one will realise that pieces of the puzzle are coming together in a way that no one could have predicted.

South Africa have a Marco Jansen who is shaping up to be a scary all-rounder at only 23 years of age, while the bowling stocks are boosted by a generational talent in Kagiso Rabada.

Alongside Rabada are the tried and tested Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi, with the addition of the promising Burger making up an attack that will certainly send shivers down the spine of any batting unit.

On the batting front, De Zorzi has taken international cricket by storm, while Bedingham and Kyle Verreynne promise to make a name for themselves in Test cricket.

So, what is the state of Test cricket in South Africa, amid all the retirements? The answer is – healthy, and on an upward trajectory.

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