Sport offers South Africans a much-needed opportunity to escape the realities of their day-to-day grind, but cricket hasn’t presented too many feelgood moments in 2019 and 2020.
In fact, the woes at Cricket South Africa mirror our nation’s frustrating relationship with organisations such as Eskom.
Off-the-field allegations of abuse of funds and gross mismanagement have dogged those charged with oversight of cricket in South Africa.
On the field, it has been a frustrating time for all involved, and while a plethora of excuses have been offered, it doesn’t appear as though things will be turning around any time soon.
That said, sport has a way of surprising and cricketing success has not been limited to countries with the best organisation.
The Proteas could undoubtedly do with a lift right now, and it would have to come as a bolt out of the blue.
South Africa’s national team have not won an ICC trophy since their 1998 Intercontinental Cup triumph and have never claimed a World Cup title.
The lack of trophies doesn’t mean that the Proteas don’t occupy a place of prominence in world cricket. They have achieved a great deal of bilateral success in the past, but its continued place alongside rugby and football as South Africa’s most popular sports could be under threat.
Put simply: people don’t like to support a team that consistently loses and disappoints without any sort of pay-off.
Sorting out South African cricket will take a long time and will only be achieved through diligent work with players and good governance.
Mark Boucher and Graeme Smith should sense that the cricket-loving public is getting testy and that is probably a big driver behind their desire to re-enlist AB de Villiers.
The Proteas can buy South African cricket some time with fans if they can pull off an upset T20 World Cup win in Australia. If De Villiers can be coaxed into joining the group that won’t be guaranteed, but the chances will be drastically improved.
The focus will shift away from Test cricket as soon as the nightmarish Test series against England concludes, when white-ball cricket will offer the Proteas the chance to cover over their long-format sins with a bit of enterprise.
Team management should already be thinking about the World Cup and how this team can deliver a moment that makes Proteas fans feel good.
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