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ESPNcricinfo understands the players’ decision to prefer the IPL over the two Tests was unanimous, leaving South Africa with a weakened squad

South Africa are likely to field a weakened squad for the two home Tests against Bangladesh starting March 18, with all their Test players part of various franchises choosing to go to the IPL.

ESPNcricinfo understands the players’ decision to prefer the IPL over the two Tests was unanimous. Earlier this month, in what was termed by Test captain Dean Elgar as a “litmus test of loyalty”, Cricket South Africa (CSA) allowed the players choose between the IPL and their Test commitments against Bangladesh.

According to an agreement between the two boards, CSA has historically provided their players with NOCs to participate in the IPL and have not organised fixtures at the same time. This year is different, with an expanded IPL and an autumn series against Bangladesh.

“The original agreement with the BCCI was that we would release our players for the IPL. But the IPL window has gotten bigger, and our agreement remains the same,” an insider told ESPNcricinfo.

This means South Africa will be without their entire front-line seam attack against Bangladesh. Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi are contracted to the Punjab Kings and the Delhi Capitals, respectively, while Marco Jansen, the left-arm seamer who broke through during South Africa’s victorious home series against India late last year, is set to play for Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, Anrich Nortje is most certainly out of the Bangladesh Tests due to injury, and the mystery over his IPL availability continues. Nortje last played first-class cricket on the tour of the Caribbean in July last year and is said to be suffering from a longstanding back and hip issue. Nortje, who has emerged as a key weapon for the Capitals, is set to be assessed by the franchise’s medical staff.

The unavailability of their front-line pacemen means Lutho Sipamla and Lizaad Williams are set to be part of the seam attack under consideration, along with Keshav Maharaj, the frontline spinner. Sipamla is three Tests old, having most recently featured in South Africa’s famous win over New Zealand in Christchurch last month. Williams, meanwhile, is uncapped in the Test arena, but has played a solitary ODI and six T20Is.

The selectors will also look towards a spin-bowling allrounder. This means George Linde could come into consideration. Linde was earlier said to miss the series owing to county commitments in the UK, but has now confirmed his availability, as will Duanne Olivier, the fast bowler. Beauran Hendricks, the left-arm seamer, who was in line to be picked will miss out as he’s likely to head over to the UK for the start of the county season.

All the Test specialists are understood to have had a meeting with Mark Boucher, the head coach, with efforts being made to convince them to prioritise the Tests before heading over to India. There is an indication that some, including Rabada, could be persuaded to stay for at least the first Test. However, it is more likely that the players will continue to the IPL.

GMT 1550 The story initially misidentified Kagiso Rabada’s IPL franchise. The error has been fixed.