“We let a lot of people down”, the captain of the South African cricket team, Faf du Plessis, said despairingly at a press conference after a consolation victory against Sri Lanka.
The 2019 ICC World Cup has not been an easy ride for the Proteas, even as they ended their campaign on a winning note against the Aussies on the evening of Saturday July 06.
Even before the event, the Proteas had to deal with different challenges. Their World Cup preparation took a dip when AB de Villiers – one of the greatest cricketers of his time and an asset of the South African team – announced an early retirement from international cricket last year.
The decision was not easy to digest for a team that was already suffering from Kolpak deals, but now there is no turning back. The Proteas have had one of the most embarrassing exits from the tournament.
However, the team can focus on at least three takeaways from this ten-nation tournament when planning for the next World Cup in 2023.
First, the team management needs to devise a policy by which they can replace the senior players gradually. Instant changes would only welcome deterioration within the team, especially if they are to choose a new captain since he would need some support at the beginning of his leadership.
The rebuilding process takes time and the ‘work in process’ stage never looks attractive until the time of completion. Hence, team management must come up with intelligent planning and stick to it even when the chosen resources are not responding well.
Second, the team management must come up with a well-thought-out rotation policy.
For the last two years there have been serious injuries within the team, from Dale Steyn to Lungi Ngidi to Kagiso Rabada. These bowlers have been strike force for the Proteas and if they get injured at crucial junctures then it will only be a recipe for a disaster.
It is also important to note that the emergence of T20 leagues has contributed to the recent surge in injuries – especially to fast bowlers – as it takes a toll on bodies of athletes who are already going through the busy international season. A continuous and planned rotation of players along with the introduction of young players would certainly bring fresh air into the dressing room.
Third, the quota system needs serious consideration. Though it was not in place in this World Cup, it may haunt them in the future unless it is completely abolished. The system is not running well among the players and is one of the reasons behind the recent surge in Kolpak deals.
This brings us to my last point, which is that Cricket South Africa has to analyze the other causes behind this Kolpak deal resurgence. The most recent player lost to this deal is Duanne Olivier, who had an impressive Test series against Pakistan when the latter toured South Africa. He has incredible stats of 48 wickets in his ten Test match career.
The list also includes players like Kyle Abbott, Richard Levi, David Wiese and Rilee Rossouw. This needs to be sorted out on an emergency basis as this trend won’t allow the team management to plan for the future at a time when they are unsure about the availability of vital resources.
Though his recent ODI form does not seem to favour him to take over the captaincy role, he seems to be the serious contender and possibly the best current choice since he has captained at the under-19 level. He is aggressive, young and possesses a clever head on his shoulders.
There are plenty of issues to work on in the current situation and number of shoes to fill in as players like Hashim Amla, du Plessis, JP Duminy, Steyn and Imran Tahir won’t be part of the team when 2023 rolls around.
But there is still plenty to look out for from the Proteas in the future.