South Africa defend weakened test squad for New Zealand series

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South Africa defend weakened test squad for New Zealand series

South Africa have selected a second-string squad featuring seven debutants
South Africa have selected a second-string squad featuring seven debutantsReuters
Test cricket remains the pinnacle of the game, Cricket South Africa (CSA) said after it was criticised for selecting a second-string squad featuring seven debutants for the country's two fixtures in New Zealand next month.

The series will clash with CSA’s domestic Twenty20 competition, which is seen as vital to the future financial health of the organisation.

The country’s leading players will therefore stay at home and skip the overlapping test tour to New Zealand.

CSA says this will be a one-off scenario with no fixture clashes in future, but the decision has drawn criticism from several quarters, including former Australia captain Steve Waugh.

"CSA has the utmost respect for the test format as the pinnacle of the game we love," the organisation said in a statement on Tuesday.

"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 timeslot for this 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.

"Our schedule for the remainder of the FTP has been managed to ensure that there will not be any further clashes between our bilateral commitments and the SA20."

Only two players from the South African XI that defeated top-ranked India by an innings and 32 runs in the first test of their series last week, David Bedingham and Keegan Petersen, will be on the tour, while the side will be led by uncapped captain Neil Brand.

"CSA remains fully committed to international cricket and to strengthening the SA20, a tournament that was initiated by us to help grow and sustain the game," the CSA statement concluded.

South Africa played only four tests in 2023 as limited overs series took precedence.

After New Zealand, they have a two-test series lined up against West Indies, Bangladesh (both away), Sri Lanka and Pakistan (both home) in 2024.

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