JOHN GOLIATH tables five post-World Cup solutions for Cricket South Africa, who needs to take swift and decisive action after South Africa’s latest embarrassment at cricket’s showpiece event.
While the beleaguered Proteas still have two matches to play before their World Cup obligations are met, an autopsy of their disastrous tournament needs to be done as soon as possible.
Pick fit and in-form players
Too many of the Proteas players went into the tournament lacking form or sufficient game time following injury. It becomes a massive issue when you have to start the tournament by playing England and India – with Bangladesh squeezed in between – in the first week. And it showed, as they never hit the ground running. The Proteas never recovered from those defeats and have been on the back foot throughout this tournament. They went to England with Hashim Amla and David Miller lacking form, while JP Duminy and Lungi Ngidi required game time after injury. Dale Steyn shouldn’t have even made the trip because of a shoulder problem.
Revive club cricket in the country
Let’s not beat around the bush here: the Proteas tend to wilt when the pressure is on, especially at World Cup.
They look uncomfortable when they have to make the play or when being dominated by the opposition. They lack serious backbone. You can’t teach ‘bottle’, but you can help kids develop a thick skin over time. One solution could be to put more emphasis on playing club cricket against grizzled veterans, rather than them going straight into an academy set-up and then semi-professional cricket. It’s tough when you aren’t cuddled or need to get dressed in the car before a match or when people talk about your pimples and lack of a sex life in the slips. It tends to build a bit of character, because there will be bigger chirps in much bigger matches later on in their careers.
Choose your wickets wisely
The Proteas have played on some really bowler-friendly pitches since Ottis Gibson became the head coach. He was feeding South Africa’s strengths, especially in the Test arena, where they developed a very good home record.
However, when they played on good wickets in the two-Test series against Sri Lanka they lost 2-0 because they couldn’t bowl the Sri Lankans out twice. When there isn’t any seam or swing, as has been the case at this World Cup, the Proteas bowlers look rather ordinary. They struggle to contain batsmen on flat wickets, because they don’t have a lot of variation or other plans to counter batters taking the game to the bowlers.
Have a post-World Cup indaba
South Africa’s worst performance at the cricket World Cup needs to be properly unpacked. It’s a crisis, it truly is, because one win after seven matches is a disaster for a country ranked third going into this World Cup. There is a lot of intellectual property around, while it would also help to get some outside perspective. SA Rugby had a similar seminar not so long ago, and they aren’t looking to bad heading into the World Cup in September.
The Proteas need a fresh approach as far as the World Cup and big tournaments are concerned. There’s also a need for hard truths and sober reflection.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
JP Duminy and Imran Tahir will hang up their ODI boots after the World Cup, but there could be others who will call it a day after the tournament. Hashim Amla may be playing his last couple of 50-over matches in Proteas green over the coming weeks, while captain Faf du Plessis will be 35 in July.
However, Cricket South Africa shouldn’t just discard these stalwarts for youngsters in a panic, but rather blend in new blood over time and let them learn their craft at the feet of these legends of the game.
To throw away experience willy-nilly is not going to the help the situation. Just like plants need water and sunshine to grow, rookies need the guidance from senior pros to help them become better players.