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
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.