Cricket news - South African players return to work

"The players will train in small monitored groups with identified coaches from their nearest franchise teams." - CSA release.

"The players will train in small monitored groups with identified coaches from their nearest franchise teams." - CSA release.

South Africa's top professional men's players are going back to work, but not yet as a squad. Instead, the government has cleared them to practice at their closest franchise venue.

A Cricket South Africa release on Monday (June 29) said the "high performance training squad officially returned to training on Monday following approval from the minister of sport, arts and culture, Nathi Mthethwa, on Friday".

March 15 marked the last time cricket was played in South Africa at a significant level. The season would have ended in April ordinarily but was curtailed because of the coronavirus pandemic. As of Monday evening, the country had reported more than 138,000 cases of the disease, 2,456 of which had proved fatal.

South Africa's tour of Sri Lanka this month has been postponed but they are still - officially, at any rate - due to arrive in the Caribbean in just more than two weeks' time. That seems ever more unlikely with South Africans having been in various stages of lockdown since March 27 and CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith saying six weeks of preparation would be required before the team could take the field in a match.

"The players will train in small monitored groups with identified coaches from their nearest franchise teams," Monday's release said. "These sessions will be in accordance with the guidelines set out by the CSA COVID-19 steering committee and approved by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), an arm of the [health department]."

CSA's chief medical officer, Shuaib Manjra, was quoted as saying: "We engaged with the NICD, who were comfortable with our protocols and responses to their queries for further details in some respects. Our prevention programme, besides the regular testing of players and support staff, is predicated on personal hygiene measures and creating a sanitised ecosystem. COVID-19 compliance managers at each venue have assumed responsibility to ensure all the elements of the protocol are implemented."

The meticulous wording of CSA's release follows the debacle that unfolded after June 17, when they said they would return to play on June 27 by launching a new format, 3TC, which would involve three teams of eight players each contesting a single match of 36 overs. Smith said then that "everything has been okayed" with government for the venture, which it was hoped would raise USD173,000 for charity. But the game had to be postponed after it emerged that CSA did not have express permission from the authorities, not least because it was due to be played at Centurion - a Covid-19 hotspot.

The tone and content of Monday's release was an indication that lessons have been learnt.

South Africa's high performance training squad: Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Junior Dala, Theunis de Bruyn, Rassie van der Dussen, Shaun von Berg, Dwaine Pretorius, Heinrich Klaasen, Temba Bavuma, Reeza Hendricks, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Wiaan Mulder, Bjorn Fortuin, Andile Phehlukwayo, David Miller, Sarel Erwee, Khaya Zondo, Daryn Dupavillon, Keshav Maharaj, Senuran Muthusamy, Keagan Petersen, Imran Tahir, Lutho Sipamla, Edward Moore, Anrich Nortje, Sisanda Magala, Glenton Stuurman, Jon-Jon Smuts, Rudi Second, Pite van Biljon, Raynaard van Tonder, Gerald Coetzee, Pieter Malan, Zubayr Hamza, Janneman Malan, Faf du Plessis, Tony de Zorzi, Beuran Hendricks, Nandre Burger, George Linde, Kyle Verreynne.