'Quarantine protocols' force Proteas to select young T20 side in Pakistan

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Graeme Smith
Graeme Smith
  • CSA Director of Cricket Graeme Smith explained that quarantine protocols are the reason as to why the Proteas have selected a 'water-downed' T20 side in Pakistan.
  • The Proteas will play two different teams for the upcoming Test and T20 series against Pakistan.
  • Smith also stated that CSA is looking for ways to stay ahead of the Proteas' mental space as they move from bubble to bubble.

In a logistical nightmare and the threat of the coronavirus, the Proteas have decided to play two different teams for the Test and T20 series against Pakistan.

The Proteas play in Pakistan for the first time in 14 years with Cricket South Africa (CSA) announcing a much-changed T20 squad for the matches that will take place from 11 to 14 February.

Only Lutho Sipamla, Dwaine Pretorius, Tabraiz Shamsi and George Linde will remain in Pakistan for the three-match T20 series.

The T20-side will be led by Proteas wicketkeeper-batsman Heinrich Klaasen and includes plenty of new faces as Okuhle Cele, Ryan Rickleton, Nandre Burger and Jacques Snyman all received their maiden call-ups.

This would've been the perfect time for coach Mark Boucher to start cementing his T20 side ahead of October's T20 World Cup in India.

However, the Proteas are expecting to host a three-match Test series against long-time rivals Australia in March.

CSA Director of Cricket Graeme Smith explained that the reasoning behind playing two squads was due to the quarantine protocols.

"In working with Cricket Australia, we've come to a lot of those medical conclusions and how that's going to look. There will be an initial quarantine period before that series and unfortunately, we would have to play two different squads at the time," said Smith in a CSA press video.

"In a normal world, it's not ideal but it does offer opportunities. We would love to get our home summer completed, and Australia are a big part of that home summer."

This is the first time the Proteas will face Australia in a Test match series since the ball-tampering saga in 2018.

"We saw from the Australia-India series the hype around Test cricket. I think it's going to be a great test of where we are as a squad so we are motivated," said the former Proteas skipper.

"The last time a Test series with Australia happened in South Africa it was very heated and we all know what went on. 

"We are very excited to be able to host Australia but that comes with certain restrictions and medical protocols that we're putting in place. We have to bring the Test squad home so they can start with that quarantine period before that series starts."

Smith stressed the importance of hosting tours and making sure that cricket gets played with CSA hoping to complete their summer season amid Covid-19 concerns.

"When you work on these BSE (bio-secure environment) protocols for Covid-19, you work with other member nations. If member nations don't support each other and get in and play cricket then cricket is going to find itself in a very challenging space," said Smith.

"Your objective is to find the protocols that work for both, you find the middle ground to implement them and play cricket safe."

Several of the senior members of the Proteas team have been in bio-secure bubbles since the Indian Premier League in September.

The Proteas are in their third bio-secure bubble thus far following series' against England and Sri Lanka.

Proteas captain Quinton de Kock called living in the bubble "unsettling", while star bowler Kagiso Rabada referred to it as a "luxury prison".

With the coronavirus regulations and protocols in place to help curb the spread of the virus, it has made playing cricket a bit more challenging.

"I do feel for the players who move from bubble to bubble, life is different for everyone in the world and the challenges that Covid has thrown at us," said Smith.

"We've tried to look at "lifestyle hotels" when there's an ability to go out and get some fresh air. We've looked at team rooms and how we can create some entertainment for the players."

Smith revealed that CSA is working with South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) to help them "stay ahead" of a possible mental situation that could come from being confined to the bubble and not seeing loved ones.

"We've been working closely with SACA on the mental side, we're in constant contact with the players, doing questionnaires and trying to stay ahead of mental issues and trying to keep the dialogue as open as honest as possible. And to get players communicating and dealing with issues that come our way," said Smith.

"The next three months are going to be tough on the men's team, moving from bubble to bubble as we try and complete our home season and we'll have to manage that. Our objective is to produce a safe environment and get as much cricket played and create a space where they feel happy."

Proteas tour to Pakistan:

26-30 January - 1st Test at the National Stadium, Karachi (07:00 SA time)

4-8 February - 2nd Test at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium (07:00 SA time)

11 February - 1st T20 at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore (12:30 SA time)

13 February - 2nd T20 at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore (12:30 SA time)

14 February - 3rd T20 at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore (12:30 SA time)

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