Who might be the next SA star to retire?
Two major men’s players retiring in four days will have South Africa supporters diving for their player biographies.
Dale Steyn‚ who retired from Tests on Monday‚ and Hashim Amla‚ who called it quits completely as an international on Thursday‚ are both 36.
Quick: who else is in that age bracket?
The good news is that‚ like the Highlander‚ there is only one.
The bad news is that it’s a big one — of all the players who have turned out for South Africa this year‚ regardless of format‚ Faf du Plessis is the ballie at 35.
Scary stuff. But Du Plessis seems committed to the cause‚ and has already been confirmed as captain for the Test series in India in October.
How about Vernon Philander‚ who is 34‚ and Dean Elgar and Chris Morris who are 32?
Philander probably doesn’t fancy the Tests in India‚ where the conditions don’t suit him‚ but he is likely keen to have a go at England in the summer at home‚ where they do.
Without Amla‚ Elgar assumes an exponentially more important role in the Test side‚ whoever they play against and wherever they play them.
Were he to join the retirees‚ the wheels may well fall off.
Keeping Elgar happy is like stopping a mole from digging holes — his default setting is grumpiness — but all the stops will have to be pulled out.
Morris was among the few South Africans to emerge from the 2019 Cricket World Cup with credit‚ but fast bowlers are significantly more plentiful in the country than opening batters.
So there will be more interest in Elgar’s plans for the future.
Of the rest of South Africa’s class of 2019 — those who are still eligible for selection‚ anyway — four are 30 and five are in the last year of their 20s.
Rassie van der Dussen‚ David Miller‚ Dwaine Pretorius and Dane Paterson are on the wrong side of that divide‚ while Reeza Hendricks‚ Tabraiz Shamsi‚ Junior Dala‚ Temba Bavuma and Keshav Maharaj are in their last last year of their 20s.
The closest thing to a teenager South Africa have at their disposal‚ in terms of players already capped‚ is Sinethemba Qeshile — the Border wicketkeeper-batter who played two T20s against Sri Lanka in March — who is 20.
Of course‚ a lot more than age will inform players’ decisions about whether to stick around or get a proper job.
But‚ in dark days like these‚ when the team is hurting after delivering a performance far below themselves at the World Cup and administrators are hatching weirdly ambitious — or should that be ambitiously weird? — plots to shape the future‚ cricketminded South Africans need all the facts they can find.