The Proteas have endured a taxing year – on and off the field.
Sri Lanka sadness
- Last year’s Test-series defeat in Sri Lanka was excusable, but a similar result against the same opposition at home in January 2019 was near unforgivable. Only one of South Africa’s specialist batsmen, Theunis de Bruyn, averaged more than 27 runs in that series. Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj shared two dozen Sri Lankan wickets, while seven other bowlers collected just eight.
- South Africa’s seam attack for the World Cup was looking solid, until Anrich Nortje and Dale Steyn were inevitably sidelined by injury. Lungi Ngidi then pulled up lame at the start of the tournament. Ngidi returned, while the others didn’t – and the Proteas were left juggling Beuran Hendricks, Dwaine Pretorius and Chris Morris.
De Villiers dilemma
- The composition of the World Cup squad faced plenty of scrutiny from fans and pundits alike. While the presence of Hashim Amla ahead of Reeza Hendricks raised several eyebrows, revelations that AB de Villiers availed himself for selection but was not obliged forged near national outrage. De Villiers’ ongoing fine form for Middlesex in the United Kingdom has ensured further smarting.
World Cup woes
- From quiet tips that the Proteas could go all the way this time, to insistence they would cough up another premature exit, Faf du Plessis and company contrived losses to England, Bangladesh and India. Defeats by Pakistan and New Zealand followed. Consolation victories over Sri Lanka and Australia hardly helped – and seventh position in a 10-team tournament definitely hurt.
- Last week’s Cricket South Africa awards were arguably the most low-key of the lot. Du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen jetted in from Canada, where they were involved in the country’s new T20 tournament, to scoop some prizes. The patriotic pride of the players remains, but is undermined by the ache of a nation needing answers, quickly.
Gibson a goner
- Mere hours later, Cricket South Africa announced a new coaching structure. In a sneaky lesson in burying the lead, head coach Ottis Gibson, assistant coach Malibongwe Maketa, batting coach Dale Benkenstein, spin bowling coach Claude Henderson and fielding coach Justin Ontong were ousted. Convenor of selectors Linda Zondi, too, won’t stay. Starting afresh, indeed, hopefully.
- That restart will, unfortunately, be triggered without Steyn – in Test cricket, at least. Steyn has retired from the longest format of the international game, but will remain available for ODI and T20I selection. This partial retirement is comprehensible and has been a long time coming. Understandably and gratefully, too, he has chosen to relinquish the right format.
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