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Sunday, Dec 08, 2019

ICC World Cup 2019, New Zealand vs South Africa: For Proteas, everybody hurts

They were once ‘chokers’—not an entirely unfortunate epithet, considering it implied that here was a brilliant team that could do it all, except cross the finishing line.

cricket Updated: Jun 20, 2019 22:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Birmingham
South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis.
South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis.(AFP)

South Africa, what’s the matter with you? Heads may roll in the coming days; a commission maybe set up to investigate yet another disappointment. A shake up is perhaps in the offing—sweeping through players, management and administration. But will it address South Africa’s chronic problem of bungling in ICC tournaments? ((ICC World Cup 2019: Full Coverage))

They were once ‘chokers’—not an entirely unfortunate epithet, considering it implied that here was a brilliant team that could do it all, except cross the finishing line.

It has been a while since South Africa have slipped from even that pedestal. They are no longer ‘chokers’, now they are just a team that loses. Ask Bangladesh, England, India, or New Zealand. Against every worthy opponent, the Proteas have folded.

Both administrative as well as on-field issues are to blame for South Africa’s nosediving ODI reputation. If selecting an injured player (Dale Steyn) was a mistake, a bigger mess was made out of AB de Villiers’s flip-flop on retirement.

Also Read: Another injury scare for India, Shankar hurts his toe in training session

Kagiso Rabada indicated that the whole team suffered from the rumours of ABD’s selection issue floating around in the dressing room.

It’s time South Africa address their mental frailties. They have produced peerless teams in the past; ultra fit units who went on winning sprees that snapped only at the cusp of history.

This team is not one of those. The World Cup has revealed not only their shortcomings in skills—their batting is simply weak—but also in their cohesiveness as an unit; consider the breakdown of communication between Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis when Imran Tahir pleaded with them to review what turned out to be a genuine edge off Kane Williamson’s bat in their match against New Zealand. Williamson went on to win the match for New Zealand.

Also Read: ‘Why didn’t Williamson walk’ - Adams blasts New Zealand skipper after caught behind row

“Unfortunately, we have just not been as good as the opposition that we have played against. New Zealand today was a little bit better than us. That’s a skill thing. That’s not a hunger thing. That’s not a determination thing. That’s not a fight thing. So I can’t fault the team for that,” said South Africa captain Faf du Plessis after their loss.

“If you compare our battle lineup to other lineups around the world, that doesn’t stack up with the rest of the world in terms of numbers.”

It’s the kind of admission from a captain that indicates that his team has accepted defeat. Technically, he is right—South Africa’s incompetent batting wasn’t a surprise considering they are short of world-class batsmen.

failed batsmen

In this World Cup, none of their batsmen have scored a century, and they’ve made just six fifties between them (just Australia’s openers have six fifty-plus scores already).

Only Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen have showed some fight.

The same cannot be said of Hashim Amla, who has misfired repeatedly. Against New Zealand, the manner of his dismissal was telling—exposing two stumps to a left-arm spinner instead of staying behind the ball—it’s the kind that ends careers.

David Miller too will be under the scanner for failing to evolve from his Twenty20 ways and shouldering more responsibility.

Du Plessis admitted to his own lack of success before touching upon the makeover the squad could undergo bearing in mind another World Cup in four years’ time.

“I think that will happen naturally with quite a few guys at the end of their careers. So you are probably getting three or four guys getting away from that. And then you know, depending on Cricket South Africa, I feel in terms of what they believe is a good way forward, they might want a complete change,” he said.

He did point out the players who he believes will be the nucleus around which the future team will be built

“Rassie has shown that he’s the real deal,” he said. “I think he’s got leadership capabilities as well. He’s standing up to be a strong man in a big tournament for us. Andile (Phehlukwayo) has done well as a young guy. Aiden (Markram), we know the kind of player he is. What will naturally happen is you will probably lose six or seven players after this tournament. I don’t think you need to do more than that.”

Mathematically, South Africa are still alive in the tournament with three more matches left but du Plessis seems to have thrown in the towel. Defeat to New Zealand feels like the familiar knockout blow that South Africa have gotten used to by now but need to learn to overcome.

“You know, it’s tough now,” said du Plessis when asked if a turnaround is possible. “You can feel in the dressing room the guys are hurting. I’m feeling five years older. My body is really sore after that. So we left everything out there, and that’s all I can ask for as a captain, that the guys fought. We are not pointing fingers anywhere else, but as I said, as a team, we are just not as good as other teams at the moment, and that’s our mistake. So we take it on the chin.”