CSA to be less rigid in applying fitness standards

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Cricket South Africa will no longer apply fitness standards as rigidly as earlier, so both their male and female athletes who fail to complete their two-kilometre run in the required time, or whose skinfolds are above recommended measures, will still be permitted to play on the national coaches’ discretion.

However, in a document circulated to players, and seen by ESPNcricinfo, CSA continues to “strongly recommend” that those who do not meet the minimum fitness standard “should not take the field in an official match”.

The change came after South Africa were forced to bench several key members, including former captain Dane van Niekerk, wicketkeeper-batter Lizelle Lee, and death-bowling specialist Sisanda Magala last year after all of them failed to meet the fitness requirements. While van Niekerk and Magala couldn’t complete over-ran their time in the two-kilometre run, Lee’s weight was over the required amount and she was going to be denied a no-objection certificate to play in overseas leagues.

Van Niekerk and Lee have both since retired, while Magala passed the test and was part of South Africa’s most recent ODI squad.

For the 2023-24 season, the “fit-to-play” standard remains the same for the national men’s and women’s players. Male players have to run two kilometres in under 8.30 minutes and have an overall skinfold count of 85mm or less, and women have to complete the same distance in under 9.30 minutes with skinfolds at 100mm or less. The men’s provincial players will be held to the same standard as the international players, while the women’s domestic players have some leeway and must run two kilometres in 10.15 minutes or under with skinfolds measuring less than 120mm.

CSA has also created an elite standard for players who run two kilometres in under 7.45 minutes for men and under 9.00 minutes for women, and will aim to “encourage and drive all professional players to reach elite standards”. There is no indication of whether there is an additional incentive for excellence.

Players will be tested twice during a season: once just before competition starts in September and again mid-season, in December-January. It is recommended that the two-kilometre test begins with ten minutes of running and dynamic stretching, and walking is permitted during the trial. The run must be completed outdoors, preferably on an athletic track, and no indoor or treadmill running is permitted.

Van Niekerk’s final test was done on a treadmill, which she failed by 18 seconds and resulted in her being left out of the T20 World Cup squad. From information gathered by ESPNcricinfo at the time, South Africa were the only country applying fitness standards in such a rigid manner. While England and Australia have used the 8.30-minute benchmark for men’s players as an indicator of fitness, none of them were left out of a squad for failing to meet the marks – albeit there were very few examples of players not being able to run two kilometres in this time.

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