Proteas: Klaasen's crazy cold shoulder over contract

Heinrich Klaasen (Gallo Images)
Heinrich Klaasen (Gallo Images)

Even a sore thumb doesn’t stick out quite enough.

The omission of Heinrich Klaasen, such a heart-warming “arrival” at the tail end of the men’s national team’s challenging home international season, was the most startling feature of Cricket South Africa’s list of contracted players for the 2020/21 season.

In announcing their list of signed-up players on Monday, CSA kept to the status quo of a group of 16.

While room has been left for the addition of an extra player as next summer develops (hopefully unaffected by then by the current disruptions due to the global coronavirus pandemic) it nevertheless seems inexplicable that Klaasen couldn’t make the cut after his enormous performance upswing during Australia’s recent white-ball tour here.

Klaasen, who will turn 29 in mid-winter - so not too far off the time when cricketers start to think more intensively about maximising their financial futures the best they can, especially if it can involve non-rand earnings - was the standout customer by far in the three-match ODI series against the Aussies.

Gentle reminder: the Proteas clean-swept the visitors 3-0 in the final series of the broadly traumatic home season, simultaneously ensuring their only outright success in five (three formats against England, where one was split, and two against the Australians).

The flame-haired stroke-player from Pretoria was a near runaway choice for player of the series (though Lungi Ngidi’s bowling exploits in two personal appearances were stirring, too) for his consecutive scores of 123 not out at Paarl, 51 in Bloemfontein and 68 not out at Potchefstroom.

It was arguably the most consistently compelling effort by a South African across the formats all summer, leaving him one of the names to anticipate with heightened enthusiasm by Proteas fans whenever combat can resume.

Right now the physically strong, clean-striking Klaasen looks a shoe-in for both ODI and Twenty20 activity in Quinton de Kock’s team, moving forward.

His ODI stats show 17 caps and 493 runs at an assertive strike rate of 95 an average of 41.08; Proteas batsmen averaging 40 or more don’t exactly grow on trees these days.

He also looks appealing, frankly, for a possible recall to the Test fray (a winter series in the Caribbean remains on the table) given his additional credentials as a back-up wicketkeeper to the increasingly hard-pressed De Kock and occasional off-spinner too.

Klaasen has only played one prior Test, the dead-rubber third in South Africa’s 0-3 whitewashing in India (Ranchi) at the start of 2019/20 when he scored six and five in the middle order – though desperately few Proteas batsmen in an already demoralised party prospered in totals of 162 and 133.

The player first came onto the international scene against the very same India back in the 2017/18 season, when they were visitors to our shores in all three formats and he was one of few shafts of light in the ODI series where the Proteas suffered probably their worst home humiliation ever, losing 5-1 and being utterly befuddled by “mystery” spin.

Although he didn’t get so much as a half-century, he played a couple of suitably defiant innings that revealed gritty temperament mixed with pleasing bursts of audacity.

But then he slipped into a period where his performances tapered off a little, and duly fell off the selection radar for a while.

His clawback in the latter part of the 2019/20 summer, though, included a withering home-ground (SuperSport Park) innings of 66 at a strike rate of precisely 200 in his only opportunity - an untimely injury got in his way for a short while - in the three-match T20 series against England which the tourists edged 2-1.

That only turned out to be, in some senses, his tune-up for a more intensive assault on the Australian attack more recently.

The entire, productive period deserved rather better than a CSA contractual snub on Monday, especially as one or two more tenuous batsmen selection-wise at summer’s end made the grade.

You’d like to think the situation will be rectified sooner rather than later.

Klaasen mustn’t be allowed to become just another SA batsman flying the coop for abroad.

CSA contracted Proteas men's players:

Temba Bavuma (Lions), Quinton de Kock (Titans), Faf du Plessis (Titans), Dean Elgar (Titans), Beuran Hendricks (Lions), Reeza Hendricks (Lions), Keshav Maharaj (Dolphins), Aiden Markram (Titans), David Miller (Dolphins), Lungi Ngidi (Titans), Anrich Nortje (Warriors), Andile Phehlukwayo (Dolphins), Dwaine Pretorius (Lions), Kagiso Rabada (Lions), Tabraiz Shamsi (Titans), Rassie van der Dussen (Lions)

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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