According to the global cricket community’s outrage, headed by former Australia captain Steve Waugh, it seems that the individuals in charge of the game in South Africa have just delivered the ultimate blow in the grisly murder of Test cricket.
“Is this a defining moment in the death of Test cricket?” Waugh wondered in the caption of an Instagram post in which he posted a photo of the Proteas’ squad for their upcoming two-Test series in New Zealand in February.
To be fair to Waugh, his surprise was understandable since half of the 14-man team is uncapped, including series captain Neil Brand.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) was forced to announce an understrength team since 77 of its players are under contract in its franchise Twenty20 competition, SA20, which started its second season on Wednesday and will run until February 10.
While many individuals have joined Waugh in humiliating the South African board, others associated in the country’s cricket have, surprisingly, welcomed the move to prioritize SA20.
“Everyone understands that the SA20 must take place… because it is the lifeblood of South African cricket.” “If it doesn’t happen, we won’t have Test cricket,” South Africa’s Test squad coach Shukri Conrad stated.
This support stems from the widespread recognition that the CSA is battling for its life.
Last year, the South African board recorded a loss of over USD 6.4 million, which was an improvement from the near USD 10.65 million loss in 2022.
To avoid looming calamity, South Africa put all of their eggs in one basket, the SA20, hoping that the league, in which all six clubs are owned by Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises, would bring in the sorely needed finances.
This is why South Africa set aside a large window for SA20. Ironically, Graeme Smith, under whom the Proteas remained unbeaten in away Test series for nine years, is now the head of the league that is moving Tests further down the country’s cricket pecking order.
While chastising South Africa, Waugh also encouraged the ICC and other major cricket bodies to set an equal match price for all Test players in order to maintain the “purest form” of the game.
But his cries are almost certainly going unheard.
After failing to adopt the much-debated ‘Big Three’ model in 2017, the Indian board developed what some are dubbing the ‘Big One’ plan in June last year.
India, the world’s financial superpower, is expected to get 38.5 percent of ICC profits in the 2024-27 cycle, more than eight times what South Africa would receive.
This gap is seen in the salary received by contractual players of the best teams in comparison to other countries.
The main three clubs would have lost their finest players to leagues if they had not increased remuneration for their top Test cricketers, as recently retired David Warner and his opening partner Usman Khawaja publicly revealed.
In the midst of the controversy surrounding the South African team, the West Indies announced a roster of seven uncapped players for a Test series in Australia.
This, however, did not have as much of an impact since the cricketing world has become used to the West Indies sending understrength teams while its finest players play in other competitions.
The only option for South Africa to escape the same destiny as the West Indies is to give its players more money. To do so, they must better their financial situation, which they hope to do via SA20.
South Africa and the West Indies have neither the ambition nor the capacity to end Test cricket.
Other nations’ fingerprints are all over the blade that has left Test cricket bleeding.