Proteas batting coach Dale Benkenstein is at a loss why South Africa’s top order have struggled at this year’s World Cup, writes DANIEL GALLAN in Southampton.
Before rain halted play after just 7.3 overs against the West Indies, South Africa were struggling on 29-2, with Hashim Amla and Aiden Markram back in the shed in single figures.
Proteas were 44-2 inside ten overs against England in their opening game and 24-2 inside six overs against India last week. Only against Bangladesh did the top order provide some sort of platform as they lost their second wicket with the score on 102 in the 20th over. However, that game was lost as a result of solid starts not being converted.
‘Putting your finger on why they’re going out when they have, is almost impossible,’ Benkenstein said after Monday’s washout. ‘I think they are all feeling really good and we have to believe that a big score is around the corner.’
Rather than dwell on technical or tactical struggles, Benkenstein offered abstract concepts such as hunger and mental fragility as an explanation for batting failures.
‘The guys have been nervous and it’s shown,’ he said. ‘The frustrating thing is that the guys are in form. They’re playing well, but it’s a mental thing. They’re getting in and then getting out. Sometimes we don’t get the balance right [between attack and defence].’
Despite the lack of an explanation, Benkenstein is confident that a change in fortune is around the corner.
‘I feel like they’re batting well, but not doing enough. We’re a game away, a hundred away, a win away from getting that confidence. These guys have done it before.
‘From a coaching perspective, we just want to remind them that they’re good players and help them remember what it felt like when they were playing well. You don’t become a bad player in a week.’
The prospect of elimination might help with that. If South Africa lose one of their remaining five fixtures they will almost certainly be eliminated from the World Cup. Benkenstein thinks this do-or-die scenario might galvanise the side.
‘It’s not a bad space to be in mentally,’ he said. ‘We know what we have to do. Now we just have to do it.’
– Gallan is a London-based freelance sports writer, follow him on Twitter: @danielgallan
Photo: World Cup/Twitter