The appointment of Mark Boucher as head coach will improve the Proteas’ chances of a long-term turnaround.
Can the Proteas bounce back? After all we’ve seen and witnessed in 2019 – from a series of humiliating results to an equally depressing display by the Cricket South Africa board – do we have any reason to hope for a turnaround in the near future?
Miracles are indeed possible when the right men are employed and backed. Take the Springboks, for example, who recently won the World Cup and finished the season as the top-ranked Test side on the planet.
South African Rugby was in trouble two years ago. The Boks suffered a series of record defeats over the course of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. When Rassie Erasmus took charge as head coach in early 2018, the side was languishing at seventh in the Test standings.
Erasmus proceeded to make significant changes with the short- and long-term in mind. His plan came together in August this year when the Boks won the Rugby Championship for the first time in a decade. They continued to build over the course of the World Cup campaign and beat a more fancied England side in the final.
And they’re not done yet. Erasmus’ contract as director of rugby runs until the end of 2023. The Boks will continue to build in the lead-up to the British & Irish Lions series in 2021, and ahead of the next World Cup in France. The bulk of their coaching staff and playing squad will remain intact.
Dare we hope that the recent appointments by Cricket South Africa lead to a similar turnaround for the Proteas?
While the board is in disarray and the problems afflicting the game won’t be solved overnight, it’s possible that the Proteas may surprise all and sundry in the near future. The Boks, after all, succeeded in spite of the many problems that routinely stall the growth of the game in South Africa.
One would have liked to have seen director of coaching Graeme Smith committing to a longer term than three months. Perhaps there will be an opportunity for Smith to do so once his IPL obligations are fulfilled in May 2020.
The former Test captain will add value over the course of the Test and limited-overs series against England. Smith enjoyed many successes against England as a player. His can-do attitude is certainly what South African cricket needs at this juncture.
Boucher is in the same combative mould. The hard-nosed wicketkeeper-batsman has made a successful transition from playing to coaching. It’s going to take something special for the Proteas to succeed against England this summer – given the setbacks of the past few months. One would expect Boucher to get stuck in and set the Proteas on the right path. It’s great to hear that he has been contracted until 2023.
On Saturday, Smith said that he would appoint a batting consultant in the next few days. Jacques Kallis has been mentioned as a candidate.
The Proteas’ batting has been an issue – at Test and ODI level – for the past five or six seasons. The batsmen have failed to apply themselves and perhaps Kallis – a player who was renowned for his mental fortitude as much as his technical ability – has what it takes to address that issue.
Can the Proteas bounce back? Yes they can. If the new men at the helm are provided with the necessary support to put their plans into place, the Proteas should improve steadily over the coming seasons.
Whether they will bounce back immediately is another story. Expectations should be tempered ahead of the four-Test series against England, which will begin with a match at Centurion on 26 December.
It will take longer than a couple of weeks – or indeed a couple of months – for the new-look coaching staff to drag the Proteas out of the mire.
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