Proteas’ woes con­tinue post World Cup

With­out Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn in the squad the Proteas are go­ing to need a new game plan

DRUM - - Contents - BY RICHARD VAN RENS­BURG EX­TRA SOURCES: CRICKET.CO.ZA, ESPNCRICIN­FO.COM, ICC-CRICKET.COM

ASTATE of flux – that’s prob­a­bly the best way to de­scribe South African cricket right now. First there was the dis­as­ter of the ICC Cricket World Cup, fol­lowed by the sack­ing of the coach and his en­tire man­age­ment team. Then bat­ting mae­stro Hashim Amla and bowl­ing sen­sa­tion Dale Steyn re­tired – and all this shortly be­fore the Proteas face In­dia in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber.

In De­cem­ber World Cup win­ners Eng­land ar­rive on our shores for a tour, so we’re go­ing to have to sort our­selves out soon. Whichever way you look at it, it’s safe to as­sume the next few years won’t be plain sail­ing for the Proteas.

STA­BIL­ITY AND FRESH BLOOD

Amla and Steyn, who said he’d still be avail­able for ODIs and T20Is, leave big boots to fill, says cricket an­a­lyst and fast-bowl­ing leg­end Fanie de Vil­liers.

With­out play­ers of their cal­i­bre it will be hard to com­pete against coun­tries that have the best play­ers, sys­tems and man­age­ments in place. But there is hope.

Ai­den Markram (24) and Quin­ton de Kock (26) could step up to fill the void left by Amla in the bat­ting line-up.

“Markram is fan­tas­tic for the fu­ture,” De Vil­liers says. He cap­tained the SA ­Un­der19 team that won the ju­nior world cup in 2014 and is be­ing groomed to take over the cap­taincy from Faf du Plessis in time.

Ali Bacher, former SA cap­tain and cricket ad­min­is­tra­tor, says an in-form De Kock (who’s been No 4 on the ODI rankings) “can win a match for us on his own”.

De Vil­liers says ODI open­ing bats­man Reeza Hen­dricks (30) is also “an ab­so­lute gift”, even though he’s been roped into the na­tional side fairly late in his ca­reer.

“And [when it comes to bowl­ing] Kag­iso Rabada has al­ways had the po­ten­tial to be the next Steyn. He’s al­ready been

No 1 in the world Test rankings [and is cur­rently No 2, and No 3 in the ODI rank­ing]. With more ex­pert man­age­ment and coach­ing, he can be even bet­ter.” As far as more ex­pe­ri­enced se­nior play­ers go, De Vil­liers says Test open­ing bats­men Dean El­gar (32) can help Du Plessis (35) sta­bilise the team. The same ap­plies to Ver­non Phi­lan­der (34), par­tic­u­larly as a Test fast bowler. Rassie van der Dussen (30), SA’s best bat­ter at the World Cup af­ter Du Plessis, “has also now shown how good he is. It’s just a pity our sys­tems are so weak that he’s only com­ing through at this age,” De Vil­liers says. More re­cently fast bowler Lungi ­Ngidi (23) and Ke­shav Ma­haraj (29), who can take over the man­tle of spin bowler from Im­ran Tahir (40), can boost this pos­si­ble fu­ture core group of play­ers.

DID THE COACH HAVE TO GO?

“Ot­tis Gibson isn’t to blame for things go­ing wrong for the Proteas,” De Vil­liers says. “Some­one is be­ing made the scape­goat again to cover up more wide-rang­ing prob­lems.” De Vil­liers is one of sev­eral ex­perts who be­lieve there’s been sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in SA cricket at provin­cial level. The gap be­tween this level and in­ter­na­tional cricket has grown so wide “it’s caus­ing a real prob­lem”. “Gibson, with his ex­pe­ri­ence in in­ter­na­tional coach­ing and bowl­ing cir­cles in the West Indies and Eng­land, re­ally has the cre­den­tials. You can’t achieve the suc­cess ex­pected from him in a year or two. Our sys­tem has let him down – he should’ve had more sup­port and free­dom.”

The rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced Enoch Nkwe has now been ap­pointed as in­terim coach – or team di­rec­tor, as the po­si­tion will be known in fu­ture.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Our sys­tems must be im­proved so a larger pool of tal­ented play­ers can be de­vel­oped faster and their ca­reers man­aged bet­ter, De Vil­liers says.

This in­cludes the amount of cricket they play, fit­ness and in­juries, in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure and us­ing all avail­able ex­per­tise to com­pete op­ti­mally.

Many vastly ex­pe­ri­enced former play­ers, with years of in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure, are pre­pared to help but are be­ing shunned by the ad­min­is­tra­tors.

In the short term, Cricket SA must do what it can to en­sure Test vet­er­ans such as Du Plessis, El­gar and Phi­lan­der don’t fol­low Amla and Steyn. SA can’t af­ford to lose any more play­ers of high cal­i­bre.

Ex Proteas head coach Ot­tis Gibson.

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