Dean Elgar is hopeful that clashes between T20 leagues and Test cricket will be minimised and better managed to avoid a repeat of the situation South Africa had in March-April when six Test regulars chose to go to the IPL instead of playing in the two-match series against Bangladesh.
At the time, CSA gave the players the choice to stay with the national side or otherwise, which Elgar initially called a test of loyalty that may determine their future selections in the Test side. A few weeks later, when the players chose the IPL, Elgar's stance had softened and he said they were put in a "bit of a situation," which the team understood.
Now, in the first Tests South Africa are playing since the Bangladesh series, all six players (Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen and Marco Jansen), are back in the squad and Elgar has accepted them with open arms. "We were aware of the situation those players were put in. It was a very unfortunate situation that they had to go through and I don't blame them for the decision they made. There was no air to be cleared," Elgar said.
He is certain that all six players have been and will continue to be committed to South African cricket. "We're pretty sure they want to be here.", Elgar said. "I am pretty sure if you go back then, they would have loved to have been playing Test cricket for South Africa. They were put in a corner and they had to make a decision and as a group they made a decision. It wasn't an individual decision, it was a group decision which I am totally happy about because I sat in more meetings than anyone. I am very happy to have them back.
"I didn't have my potential best XI around at that time but we gave a lot of guys exposure to Test cricket and it was also an exercise we wanted to try and do knowing there might be a clash - to give the young guys opportunity and expose them to this level. But now, it's good to have them back and they are more than welcome in the changeroom."
South Africa gave debuts to three players - Ryan Rickelton, Lizaad Williams and Khaya Zondo (as a Covid-19 substitute) in the Bangladesh series and both Rickelton and Zondo are on this tour. They also welcomed back offspinner Simon Harmer, who had been unavailable for South Africa on a Kolpak deal, but returned to share the wicket-taking load with Keshav Maharaj and provide a second, specialist spin option. Whether South Africa would have to be as generous with new caps and comebacks if the opposition was higher-ranked is unknown but they made-do in the Bangladesh series and won it 2-nil and Elgar hopes the situation won't be repeated.
"I hope if there is some sort of clash of events, there are some sort of things put in place between the two bodies of cricket. I would like to think there is something more concrete put around that just to give players more safety," he said, alluding to the financial rewards for players in T20 leagues. A South African player, who earns in South African Rands, will earn many times more than their annual salary in one IPL season, not least because those amounts are paid in US Dollars.
Elgar's wish may well come true and clashes are likely to be avoided. In a draft copy of the men's FTP, seen by ESPNcricinfo and expected to be officially released by the ICC tomorrow, South Africa have no international fixtures scheduled from mid-March to the end of May from 2023 onwards. They do have sometimes have Tests in January and early February (2024 in New Zealand and 2027 against England at home) when their own T20 league will be played but ESPNcricinfo understands that if any of the red-ball squad members are playing in the new league, they will be released to the Test squad for those matches.