Protea fire is a campaign to get behind our boys but our boys have largely misfired at this year’s World Cup in England and Wales. The Proteas have a meager 3 points from 6 games and little to no chance of getting to the last four of the tournament bar rain affected games and upsets from the less fancied teams and even then it would require SA not losing another game and having only won once in 6 games that might be a stretch too far for our beloved Proteas. Where has it all gone wrong? Are we still among the elite nations? Where do we go in future? I’m giving my take on all these questions as a die-hard SA sports fan.
In my opinion the signs and writing has been on the wall for the Proteas for the last year or so. Our preparation for the world cup hasn’t been great with Coach Otis Gibson choosing to play a large number of players to see what they have. I believe this was the start of our down fall and paved the way for a dismal world cup. We should have settled on a squad at least 18 months before the world cup and if we did it certainly did not seem that way. I know that injury played a large part in that but having said that we could have at least settled the players that were in the set up already. This chopping and changing of players was never going to work because the players we wanted to do well suffered because of it and because of constant changes to the team no one was in great form coming into the world cup. That same inconsistency has reared its head at the world cup as SA haven’t played the same 11 in consecutive games and at a world cup you can’t afford to be finding out your best 11. This speaks volumes for the coaching ability of both Otis Gibson and his staff as there is enough talent in that squad it at the very least makes the semi-final of the world cup. After this showing at the tournament Gibson’s head will be first on the chopping block along with I believe the head of out captain Faf Du Plessis who has looked a shell of himself at this world cup and you can see the indecision on his face every time the camera is on him. Maybe the bright lights of the world cup has just been too much for Faf as he has lead the team brilliantly in the past but obviously never at a world cup which has definitely played a part. Overall there is a distinct lack of confidence in this SA side and it’s etched on the faces of our most senior players who look scared to fail instead of having freedom to express themselves.
I still believe that we are among the world’s best nations when it comes to cricket but this world cup has shown that the pressure is a bit too much for us when it comes around every four years and I for one am at a loss when it comes to why we under perform at the world cup. Where do we turn to next? Who comes in and who is leaving? JP Dumniny has said he is retiring after this world cup and id expect Hashim Amla to do so as well in the 50 over format. I think Faf would perhaps lose the captaincy but should continue in the proteas setup as he is a vital top order player for us and can guide young players in the set up. It’s time for fresh, young and hungry cricketers to get a chance at national level to build for the next for years a formidable squad to take on the world. The guys staying would be the likes of Rabada, Phehlukwayo, Nortje, Ngidi, Markram and Van Der Dussen a good base to start from for the Proteas with both promising young talent and also some experience to call up on. We have to develop style of play going forward that the whole squad buys into from now until the next tournament so that when new players com in they know what’s expected of them going forward and even players in the franchise set up play in that style for their respective franchises so that we can breed a culture of cricket in a particular style going forward.
Heads will roll, people will be blamed when it’s all said and done after the world cup and after the dust settles we are still one of the world’s best countries but we need to translate that into winning a world cup to be taken seriously in the 50 over format of the game and maybe we need to look at bringing in someone who has recently won the tournament going back only 2 or 3 tournaments so we can perhaps learn from them how to win at the world cup this would no doubt mean brining in a former Indian or Australian cricketer or coach but we need to learn how to win the tournament and play tournament in the same vein as a bilateral series where we are competitive no matter where we are playing. We need to breed a mentality of dominating our opponents no matter who they are, imposing our game plan on them instead of playing reactive cricket like we do at the moment and learning to make opponents to follow our lead.
I’d like to see either Aiden Markram or Rassie Van Der Dussen take the reigns as captain if Faf is axed as skipper of the Proteas I believe these two can handle the pressures of being captain and also have it within them to instill confidence in the squad through both performance on the field and in the way they would lead the team. Whether they can lead us to the cup is up to them and their attitude towards the issue they can either attack it head on or deflect until the tournament starts again either way in four years a lot needs to change in the Proteas set up but a mental shift is needed more than anything else. If we can get that right now and for future SA cricket I might yet get to see my beloved Proteas lift a world cup trophy.