The Proteas will be hard-pressed to fire on the batting front when they tour India in the coming months, writes JON CARDINELLI.
In 2013, the Proteas boasted the most well-balanced XI in Test cricket and were deservedly recognised as the world’s No 1 side. Their attack was the best on the planet, while their top-six featured a clutch of world-class players.
Fast forward to the present.
The lineup no longer features Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla.
The new coaching staff faces a monumental task in preparing the team for the most daunting challenge in international cricket: a tour to India.
To be fair, the Proteas’ batting has been an issue for some time. South Africa’s struggles in the subcontinent are well documented. The last time they toured India, they capitulated in humiliating fashion.
India hammered the Proteas 3-0 in the four-game series played toward the end of 2015. South Africa’s totals across that series – 184, 109, 214, 79, 185, 121 and 143 – highlighted the team’s failure to adapt to the conditions.
The Proteas continued to blow hot and cold in subsequent seasons. While their bowling boosted them to some significant series wins, the collective and individual struggles on the batting front limited their progress.
The Proteas won 11 out of 17 Tests under former coach Ottis Gibson. That record included big series wins against India and Australia at home. It also witnessed home and away defeats to Sri Lanka.
What was more or less consistent was an underwhelming performance with the bat.
South Africa posted five totals in excess of 300 across the four-Test series against Australia. However, the batsmen only managed to surpass that figure once in the preceding three matches against India, and only twice in the next seven Tests against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
During Gibson’s tenure, the Proteas posted 400 or more on just four occasions. Two of those scores came against a weakened Bangladesh in late 2017.
The most recent performance in subcontinent conditions was particularly disappointing. In Sri Lanka last year, the Proteas posted 126 and 73 in Galle, and then 124 and 290 in Colombo.
It remains to be seen how the new coaches will address the existing mental and technical issues. South Africa need to find solutions sooner rather than later.
New Proteas boss Enoch Nkwe has suggested that the team will be given an opportunity to rebuild in India. The home side won’t be holding back, though, and the conditions will be challenging. The Proteas batsmen will need to apply themselves just to avoid another embarrassing series defeat.
Photo: Gallo Images