While the majority of the 16 contract players from the Proteas group announced last week have won performance-based retentions, a few were rewarded for their average contributions, writes RYAN VREDE.
National contracts should reward consistently high levels of performance. Last year’s contracted squad included several players who had been unconvincing with the opportunities presented to them. This year, it is less the case.
Yet while some average artists, such as Heinrich Klaasen and Beuran Hendricks, have been cut, the new contracted band carries some who should consider themselves lucky to be able to earn a multi-million rand contract.
Players in three formats can win over R2 million, with the top players holding over R3 million. This excludes match fees.
It goes without saying that there must be a return on this important investment. When there is none, you have to ask questions.
Temba Bavuma (Lions)
His retention would have been under scrutiny heading into this season, but Bavuma has found his groove with the bat in every format and deserves his contract.
Dean Elgar (Titans)
The Proteas Test captain is also among the most consistent openers in the format. His temper stood up to the harshest tests and he made important contributions to winning Test matches for his team. Easy to distribute contract.
Quinton de Kock (Titans)
De Kock remains one of the team’s few white-ball gamechangers and is an elite glovemaker. His retirement from Test cricket means his contract is likely to be less lucrative than it has been in previous seasons, but his income playing on the T20 World Tour more than makes up for that.
Reeza Hendricks (Lions)
Confusing, given that Hendricks has become a fringe option in white-ball cricket. He is averaging 28.4 in his last 10 T20I games for the Proteas and just 16.8 in his last 10 ODIs. He is 32 years old and although his experience is an asset, experience means very little if it is not translated into performance.
Keshav Maharaj (Dolphins)
Probably the most deserving of an improved deal, considering he’s also become a key part of white ball teams. He has no official leadership role, but insiders speak of him as one of the most influential and respected voices on the side.
Janneman Malan (Stones)
A first contract for the 25-year-old after a good start to his career at ODI, where he averaged 60 after 15 rounds. His T20I numbers (11 innings, averaging 21.90 and hitting rate 130) are decent, but he’s a player worth investing in.
Aiden Markram (Titans)
I receive How? ‘Or’ What CSA decided to keep Markram’s contract. You can build a case for him based on his proficiency in three formats and his potential for improvement given that he is 27 years old. But professional sport is a brutal world that leaves little room for feeling. His test performance over the past year has been totally inadequate. He’s averaged under 10 in his last 11 Test rounds and has had some technical shortcomings exposed in the process. He risks losing his place to Keegan Petersen. He was average in ODI cricket but outstanding in T20I – his form there pushing him to No.3 on the rankings list. I hope he regains his technical and mental confidence. I highly rate the best version of him. But one cannot continue to justify his selection based solely on potential.
David Miller (Dolphins)
Miller enjoyed a renaissance and got his contract. He has averaged 60 in his last 10 ODI rounds and almost 50 in his last 10 T20I games for the Proteas. He becomes the player that many imagined him to be.
Lungi Ngidi (Titans)
I was encouraged by the rise of Ngidi’s test. The improvement in conditioning has clearly been beneficial. But he also developed his skill base, improved his tactical intelligence and outlasted some of the best hitters in the world. These improvements have yet to fully manifest in white-ball cricket but, at just 25, Ngidi has time on his side.
Anrich Nortje (Warriors)
Injuries have hampered his development recently, but he is already among the best Test, ODI and T20I bowlers in the world. Easy contract decision.
Keegan Petersen (Dolphins)
After an apprenticeship of almost four years, Petersen became one of the stars of Test cricket. He was excellent against India and earned his first domestic contract with those performances.
Andile Phehlukwayo (Dolphins)
Probably the most debated retention of all. Phehlukwayo is undoubtedly a gifted all-rounder, possessing a wide range of skills who, when shown in his fullness, are beautiful to behold. The problem is that it doesn’t do it with enough consistency. He plays late innings, which exposes him to aggressive hitters intent on exploiting fielding restrictions. I have some sympathy for that, and an ODI economy rating of 5.73 and a T20I economy of 8.50 aren’t terrible in that context. But you feel there’s something more, something better beyond the player we’ve seen so far. He also betrayed his talent with the bat. He is a 30+ talent in ODI and T20I cricket (he currently averages 24.56 and 9.07, respectively). He’s 26 and has time to improve, but that process needs to happen quickly or he could risk being remembered as one of the Proteas’ unfulfilled great talents.
Dwaine Pretorius (Dragons)
There’s no doubt that Pretorius is the Proteas’ most consistent and reliable all-rounder. He’s been hampered by injuries and illnesses, but when he’s been playing games, his quality shows. Getting him to come to the park on a regular basis, however, is a challenge. With a T20 World Cup coming up, Pretorius needs to stay fit and healthy.
Kagiso Rabada (Lions)
Among the game’s elite fast bowlers in all formats. Simple contract choice.
Tabraizi Shamsi (Titans)
The world’s highest ranked T20I bowler and a key part of the ODI attack was always going to be retained.
ALSO READ: Proteas Women an inspiration – for those who can watch them
Rassie van der Dussen (Lions)
One of the best white ball players on the planet, Van der Dussen is averaging 75.61 after 28 ODI innings and nearly 40 in T20I cricket. He spoke openly about needing to improve on a test average of 32.96. Whether he will settle down as a white-ball specialist remains to be seen, but his talent is immense and there’s something in me that says he’s going to figure this test stuff out.