The Proteas are talented but rudderless and must move on from Mark Boucher and his ill-equipped coaching staff writes RYAN VREDE.
When you read this, the Proteas will be on a flight home after being knocked out of the T20 World Cup. They lost just one match, and this fact seems to have convinced millions of South African cricket fans that they were unlucky.
They were not unlucky. They simply weren’t good enough when they had to be.
The opening fixture against Australia was always going to be their defining match. This became more evident in the wake of that defeat, one which featured a now chronically poor batting performance. They then stuttered with the willow through the group stage, particularly against Bangladesh. Ultimately, this proved decisive as they exited the tournament having finished level with Australia, but with an inferior net run-rate.
South Africa’s batting across all three formats has been inconsistent at best. In T20 cricket, in particular, this has been a glaring deficiency, and it has not been addressed through coaching intervention.
Instead, in the post-match press conference, Boucher was back on the blame train. He intimated the toss was costly against Australia, saying: “It was tough, we lost the toss, we batted first and we weren’t 100% sure what a good total was because that was the first game. We looked at getting 160 but we probably needed 130 or 140 to be competitive so we could have maybe done better there.”
On the sluggish pursuit of 85 against Bangladesh that took 13.3 overs and, in hindsight, cost South Africa a semi-final spot, he said: “Chasing a small total against Bangladesh – people can maybe look at that and say we should have gone harder there. That was the intention. But we lost three wickets on a wicket that was going all over the shop and unfortunately, ifs and buts don’t count now.”
But they do, Mark. A primary function of your job, and that of your coaching staff, is to equip the team with the technical, mental and strategic tools to ensure the “ifs” and “buts” don’t define your campaign in the way they have.
It is not good enough to simply attribute a World Cup exit to a set of circumstances that you intimate are outside of your control. They weren’t and Boucher should never be allowed to control the narrative in this way.
He and his coaching staff failed to prepare a deeply talented team in a way that would allow that talent to soar when it mattered most. This is unacceptable and given that he is nearly three years into the job, it is unlikely that anything will change.
The Proteas have to move on from Boucher. He has failed in his mandate.
If you’ve been paying attention, that failure was predictable, which makes it so much worse. I wrote in September that one should have low expectations of this Proteas squad under Boucher at the World Cup. I hated that I was right because the team’s talent deserves better. Cricket South Africa must now give it better.
Boucher claimed he is in possession of “a young side” who will benefit from the experience of a World Cup. He does not have a young side. Seven of the 11 players picked against England are over 30. Kagiso Rabada, at 26, was the youngest, and he has extensive experience.
He claimed the team is “headed in the right direction”. They are not. They lost the most important match in their group, then beat teams who are ranked lower than them, before concluding with a strong performance against an England side who’d already qualified.
To compound the case against Boucher, his leadership on the issue of kneeling in support of the Black Lives Matter movement has been disastrous from the outset and was part of the reason why the Proteas had to deal with an unnecessary distraction related to it at the tournament.
Lest we forget, he also lied about singing a racist song directed at Paul Adams, then later admitted he had.
Boucher enjoys unwavering support from a collection of powerful friends in the media. You are unlikely to read a call for his dismissal on any other mainstream digital publication or newspaper. Instead, they have already printed his misleading assessment of the World Cup campaign and sold it as a fact to their audience.
Don’t allow this to cloud your perspective. Boucher is simply not good enough to coach the Proteas and he must go immediately.