SA’s finest players are starring in the franchise T20 competition, even as their major Test opponents this summer‚ India and Australia‚ are engaged at the highest level.
The Indians‚ who beat Sri Lanka by an innings in Nagpur on Monday‚ will have played three games in each format against the Lankans by the time they take to Newlands for the first Test on January 5.
Also‚ Australia won the first of their five Ashes Tests against England by 10 wickets in Brisbane on Monday.
The Aussies will play four one-day internationals and at least four T20s before winging their way westward for a Test series that starts at Kingsmead on March 1.
And the only first-class cricket SA will see before they face India is a four-day‚ day/night game against Zimbabwe at St George’s Park beginning on December 26. It has been billed as a Test match but is likely to be closer in intensity and usefulness — to SA‚ at least — to a tour match.
The South Africans will be hardened to the task by the time the Australians get here but they will have to hit the ground running against No1-ranked India.
Would Russell Domingo‚ SA’s coach until after their most recent Test series against England last winter‚ be worried about his team’s readiness were he still in charge?
"The preparation will be spot-on going into that game against Zimbabwe‚ and there’s a bit of time going into the game [against India] in Cape Town‚" Domingo said on Tuesday.
"When it comes to Test cricket‚ particularly in SA‚ the side will always be motivated to do well‚ and although it’s T20 cricket they are playing at the moment, it’s still some form of cricket they are getting under their belts."
Besides‚ a day short of a month will pass between the end of the Indians’ Test series against the Lankans and the start of the rubber against SA.
Domingo said: "India will also go into some one-dayers after their Tests against Sri Lanka and it’ll be foreign conditions for them when they come here."
But the T20 competition‚ in which almost all the leading batsmen and bowlers have been capped at international level‚ remains questionable preparation for what lies ahead.
"Unfortunately, no new players have stood out and the guys who’ve been performing are the guys who were always going to perform — JP Duminy‚ AB de Villiers‚ Kagiso Rabada‚" Domingo pointed out.
Reeza Hendricks and Sarel Erwee‚ who have scored the only two centuries in the 30 matches played so far‚ were the two exceptions.
But even then, that was really not unexpected.
"It’s been really good to see Reeza Hendricks do well‚ but that’s why he’s been picked in SA’s T20 side‚" Domingo said of the Lions opening batsman‚ who is the tournament’s top run-scorer and has nine T20 international caps.
"The other players who’ve performed have all been on the radar‚ people like Aiden Markram [currently the fifth-highest run scorer]."
Despite the lack of fresh talent making breakthroughs‚ Domingo saw a positive.
"The pleasing thing is that the guys who have been picked [for SA] are the same ones who’ve put in the good performances. "
And‚ come January 5‚ they’ll have to produce the goods against India.