It’s easy to be cynical and it comes naturally for many Proteas fans, but can the national team prove the doubters wrong, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
It’s up to the new-look Proteas to turn things around. And they’ve only got to go and do it in arguably the toughest of arenas.
Fresh off the back of a disastrous World Cup which has Ottis Gibson out and interim team director Enoch Nkwe in, the Proteas must return to the scene of their embarrassing 3-0 defeat which came back in 2015.
Sure, this time the Indian technical team will ask for more neutral pitches but this South African lineup needs a lot more than some grace from the groundsmen.
Batting has long been a problem with every player in the top order starting Wednesday’s first Test in Visakhapatnam under the microscope.
Aiden Markram must prove that he can stamp his class at this level, Dean Elgar needs to return to form after an indifferent series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The tenacious left-hander didn’t pass 38 in seven innings in the last tour.
Faf du Plessis, who only mustered 60 runs in the 2015 nightmare, has the World Cup hangover for company as he prepares to go again while the rest of the batting order are some way short of the class – Quinton de Kock aside anyway – left in the wake of Hashim Amla’s retirement which coupled on the back of AB de Villiers exit from the international scene. Both were in the team that were hammered last time around.
Possibly the biggest talking point will be how Temba Bavuma fares and in what position he will be utilised. There is no further room for leeway on getting in and getting out. His numbers, often the basis of selection debate at the highest level, paint a hit-and-miss tale – he has just one hundred to his name and averages 33 from 36 matches.
With added leadership responsibilities thrust on to his shoulders, he will do well to focus on leading from the front. A lack of runs in this series will seriously hinder his long-term future in the side.
The bowling stock remains as solid as ever but the pitches won’t be overly friendly. Kagiso Rabada will no doubt be eager to bounce back to his best while the guile and skill of Vernon Philander will go a long way in helping the Proteas remain competitive.
There isn’t much room for optimism and it’s up to the batters to prove fans and pundits alike wrong. It could very quickly turn into a nightmare when looking at the all-round threat posed by the strong India team.
If Nkwe is to last in his new role, he will have to wring every drop of experience out of his captain and his bowling lineup and then hope like hell that his batsmen show a healthy measure of application and mental strength to hang around long enough to help the Proteas total to 300 and beyond.
The Proteas only passed 200 once four years ago. A lot has changed since then and you’ll struggle for more than a handful of positives.
Is that cynical or is looking into the crystal ball for this series just that gloomy?
Fans cannot go from expecting a team to be world champions to be simply hopeful of a competitive series that avoids a whitewash. Losing the fans is a seriously scary prospect for a nation’s cricketing framework that is hanging by a thread.
It’s a herculean task … it’s time for the Proteas to prove the doubters wrong.
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