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South Africa defend weakened Test squad for New Zealand series

South Africa star names being held back to play in domestic SA20 franchise league; only two players involved in the innings victory over India last week have been picked for Test tour of New Zealand in February; Neil Brand named as captain, despite being one of seven uncapped players

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Image: Cricket South Africa have issued a statement stressing its commitment to the international game

Cricket South Africa have issued a statement stressing its commitment to the international game, having been heavily criticised for selecting a severely weakened Test squad to tour New Zealand in February.

The majority of the country's best red-ball players have not been picked for the series, instead being held back to add star power to the domestic SA20 franchise league.

Just two of the players who featured in South Africa's stunning innings victory over India, the world's top-ranked Test side, at Centurion last week - David Bedingham and Keegan Petersen - are included, and Neil Brand has been picked as captain despite being one of seven uncapped players selected.

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Highlights from day three of the first Test between South Africa and India at Centurion

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

South Africa squad for New Zealand Test tour

Neil Brand (c), David Bedingham, Ruan de Swardt, Clyde Fortuin, Zubayr Hamza, Tshepo Moreki, Mihlali Mpongwana, Duanne Olivier, Dane Paterson, Keegan Petersen, Dane Piedt, Raynard van Tonder, Shaun von Berg, Khaya Zondo

A message from the CSA board read: "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 time-slot for this two Test series in consultation with New Zealand Cricket.

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CENTURION, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 27:  David Bedingham of South Africa celebrates his 50 runs during day 2 of the 1st test match between South Africa and India at SuperSport Park on December 27, 2023 in Centurion, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images).
Image: David Bedingham hit a half century in South Africa's innings victory over India at Centurion and has been picked in the touring squad for New Zealand

"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.

"We commend head coach Shukri Conrad and his staff for preparing the selected players for this tour and we are confident that they will represent the Proteas badge with honour. It is an opportunity to demonstrate the depth of talent that we have in South Africa.

"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.

"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."

After the tour of New Zealand, South Africa have two-Test series' lined up against West Indies, Bangladesh (both away), as well as against Sri Lanka and Pakistan (both home) in 2024.

Waugh: South Africa showing 'lack of respect'

Former Australia captain Waugh has labelled South Africa's as showing "a lack of respect" for New Zealand, and called on the Black Caps to boycott the series in protest.

Australia Coach Steve Waugh during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday September 4, 2019. See PA story CRICKET England. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use without prior written consent of the ECB. Still image use only. No moving images to emulate broadcast. No removing or obscuring of sponsor logos.
Image: Former Australia captain Waugh has criticised South Africa for picking a weakened Test squad to tour New Zealand

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has little role in scheduling bilateral cricket or domestic T20 leagues, which is done by the boards involved, but Waugh called on them to step in to protect Test cricket.

"Obviously they don't care," Waugh told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

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

"If the ICC or someone doesn't step in shortly then Test cricket doesn't become Test cricket because you're not testing yourself against the best players."

Current Australia captain Pat Cummins also weighed in on the debate, telling reporters on the eve of their third Test against Pakistan: "I know the South African team aren't sending their strongest side, I'm hoping it's just a phase.

"I don't think it's as dramatic decline as it sometimes gets spoken about, but I think there is an issue just with the amount of other cricket out there."

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