SA have 'utmost respect' for Tests after criticism

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South Africa's David Bedingham plays a shotWicketkeeper David Bedingham, who only made his Test debut on 26 December, will go to New Zealand as one of eight capped players

Cricket South Africa (CSA) says it has the "utmost respect" for Test cricket after they were criticised for naming a weakened squad for a tour of New Zealand.

The two-Test series starts on 3 February while South Africa's premier T20 competition, the SA20, is ongoing.

South Africa's 14-man squad contains seven uncapped players, including Neil Brand, who is set to captain the side.

CSA tried to reschedule the series but says the calendar made it impossible.

Seamer Duanne Olivier is the most experienced name in the squad, having played 15 Tests between 2017 and 2022, while batter Keegan Petersen has played 12 times.

In total the squad has 50 Test caps, while there are just three players - Petersen, David Bedingham and Zubayr Hamza - included from their ongoing Test series against India.

The Proteas won the opening Test of that series by an innings and 32 runs last week, with the second and final game starting on Wednesday.

The smiling South African quick defying calls for more menace

Former captain Dean Elgar, who will retire after the series against India, said he is "sad" South Africa are having to send a weakened team.

A CSA statement said: "The Board of Cricket South Africa (CSA) notes the concerns about the composition of the Test squad that will be travelling to New Zealand later this month.

"We reassure the fans that CSA has the utmost respect for the Test format as the pinnacle of the game we love.

"The dates for this tour were set when the Future Tours Programme (FTP) for 2023-2027 was finalised in 2022. The window for the SA20 had not been determined at that stage. Once it became apparent that there would be a clash, we made every effort to find another mutually suitable slot for this Test series in consultation with New Zealand Cricket.

"Regrettably the constraints imposed by the global cricket calendar rendered this impossible, as the games must be played before April 2025 as part of the World Test Championship."

They added they were confident the players picked "will represent the Proteas badge with honour" and that the series was "an opportunity to demonstrate the depth of talent".

They say future editions of the SA20 will not clash with bilateral commitments and they "remain committed to international cricket" while "strengthening the SA20, a tournament that was initiated by us to help grow and sustain the game".

'It's up to the guys who count the beans'

The announcement comes amid growing competition for players' time, with more franchise leagues being set up globally.

Elgar, who has played in 85 Tests for South Africa, added the series is an opportunity for players, but the situation is "not ideal".

"Irrespective of what has happened behind the scenes there is still a lot of hunger (for Test cricket) from the guys who are playing," said Elgar.

"It's out of our hands, the coaches' hands, the team management's hands.

"We can fight and promote the format as much as you can but it's up to the guys who count the beans.

"Hopefully there will be a bit of sanity in the decisions for our players going forward."

Former Australia captain Steve Waugh, who played 168 Tests across 19 years, has been critical of CSA, saying "obviously they don't care".

"If I was New Zealand I wouldn't even play the series," Waugh told the Sydney Morning Heraldexternal-link.

"I don't know why they're even playing. Why would you when it shows a lack of respect for New Zealand cricket?"

When the announcement was made Waugh posted on Instagram saying: "Is this a defining moment in the death of Test cricket.

"History and tradition must count for something. If we stand by and allow profits to be the defining criteria the legacy of Bradman, Grace and Sobers will be irrelevant."

Current Australia captain Pat Cummins told reporters he "hoped" weaker squads "was a phase" ahead of their third Test against Pakistan.

"My hopes are that it's even stronger than it is now, in 10 years' time or 20 years' time," said Cummins.

"I think in some regards leading to this Test summer, some of the question marks were against Pakistan and West Indies. We've had two fantastic Test matches against Pakistan, really well supported, big crowds.

"So I don't think it's in as dramatic a decline as sometimes it gets spoken about. But I think there is an issue just with the amount of other cricket out there, obviously competition for talent is higher than it's ever been."

Cummins said he did not know "what the silver bullet is" but he hoped the game "could make it work where we've got 15 or 20 Test-playing nations who are all really strong".

India skipper Rohit Sharma added that he thought the "priority" and "a lot of thought" should be given to Test cricket.

"You would want to see the best players playing in that format," said Rohit.

"It's something all countries need to protect and give importance to."

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