From 1992 to 2022 South Africa have found different ways to lose in ICC Tournaments. South Africa bow out of ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022 after losing to Netherlands.
Even before the last ball of South Africa’s last league game in the Super 12 stage was smashed for a boundary by Anrich Nortje, all the Netherland players were almost in the middle of the pitch with a winning lap enjoying their victory that knocked out the Proteas who were initially touted as one of the favourites to lift the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. The cameras spotted the South African players leaving the field with a heavy emotional baggage.
It is nothing new for those eleven South Africa players who just followed the paths of their past players. Without showing any disrespect to the Dutch players, on a vital day of cricket, the one unbelievable crazy catch from the former Protea player Roelof van der Merwe to send back David Miller scared a whole generation of players of South Africa.
From the semi-final loss in 1992 to the semi-final loss in 2015: South Africa refuse to overcome their demons
If one has observed South African cricket for a long time, being disappointed is nothing new for them. The twice T20I World Cup champions West Indies too, in the same tournament, were kicked out even before the Super 12 stage arrived. New Zealand too haven’t won any final despite reaching the big day three times in the past 7 years (twice in the Cricket World Cup – 2015 & 2019 - and once in the T20 World Cup - 2021); but for the Proteas, the nature of their exits just slots them in an entirely different bracket.
The beginning was in 1992 when a spell of rain in Sydney, all of a sudden, put their winning equation to ‘one run needed off 22 balls’ against England in that year’s World Cup semi-final. A total of seven years later, the whole world watched in disbelief a run out dismissal in Birmingham as Allan Donald strangely ran late on Lance Klusener’s call for a single, and fell horrendously short of the crease against Australia. The occasion was the 1999 CWC semi-final and the scores were tied at 213, but Australia advanced to the final on account of a better net run rate than South Africa after the completion of the league stage.
The wheel of misfortune ran faster as teardrops wetted the year 2003, before finding themselves at 27/5 in 2007. Shahid Afridi came and smashed them in 2009, while six years later, New Zealand’s South Africa-born hero Grant Elliott’s magnificent 73-ball 84* punctured Protea hopes in the 2015 CWC semi-final at Eden Park in Auckland.
Four players - Quinton de Kock, Wayne Parnell, Rilee Rossouw and David Miller - who experienced the same stunning emotions in Auckland during the 2015 CWC semi-final, were part of the nightmare Sunday afternoon against Netherlands in Adelaide. The players had felt betrayed when the administrations interfered in selection on the eve of the 2015 semi-final to force include Vernon Philander in place of Kyle Abbott.
All the players from the 2015 episode, expressed how hard it was for them to get over that evening while Faf du Plessis in his recently released autobiography ‘Through Fire’ penned down that it took almost a year and a half just to rebuild from that stage.
Captain Temba Bavuma - The huge elephant in the room?
Cut to the 2022 edition of the T20 World Cup, South Africa declared Temba Bavuma as their white-ball captain in March 2021, with the red-ball specialist player being part of just six ODIs at an average of 55.83, and eight T20Is at an average of 35.57, at that stage. Bavuma’s T20I numbers in the last few months, however, have become a discussion point.
When Bavuma missed the last England tour with an elbow injury, Reeza Henricks, coming into the team as an opener, put up some colourful performances with 180 runs in just three games at an average of 60 and strike rate of 156.52. If Bavuma’s poor form wasn’t enough to talk about, then the fact that he went into the World Cup being South Africa’s first black African captain was surely one.
During the five matches in the T20 World Cup 2022, Bavuma managed just 70 runs in five games at an average of 17.50 and strike rate of 112.90. To keep someone like Hendricks out of the eleven for Bavuma who is currently the huge elephant in the room wasn’t supposed to be a wise call, but should they really drop their captain in the middle of the tournament?
Different coaches for red-ball and white-ball games
South Africa coach Mark Boucher has resigned with a year left on his contract. The communication between the administration and the players seems to be a shaky one. In Boucher’s absence, Malibongwe Maketa will take charge of the team that will take on Australia in a three-match Test series before the job will be spilt; one coach will take care of the first-class side and Test side, while another one will manage the limited overs sides and therefore World Cup campaigns as well.
The current Future Tour Program (FTP) for the 2023-2027 cycle has also seen South Africa being scheduled to take part in fewer bilateral games vis a vis the rest of the teams, except Ireland and Zimbabwe. For a team like South Africa which takes a lot of pride in their cricket, to defeat a powerful India was actually quite normal with the number of abilities they have, but all of a sudden in a vital game against a relatively weaker side like the Netherlands, the stunning defeat shook all observers of the game.
The SA20 league - Ray of new hope for the future
Hope is pinned on the upcoming SA20 league which is set to begin on January 10, but even before it kicks off, there are dark clouds looming over it. Both Temba Bavuma and Andile Phehlukwayo went unsold at the auction and only six black African players were picked up by the six franchises. What does that say about a system set up to give opportunities to players across the spectrum but ends up separating the majority of the population who have faced racial segregation in the past?
T20 cricket has improved and innovated itself. The way it is being played now in 2022 is far different from the way it was played in 2007; the skills and dynamics of a player’s game have underwent a sea-change. There have been new inventions in shot-making from the batters, with the bowlers too continuously bringing new versions of deliveries to outplay the batters. The slower balls which have been mastered by Lungi Ngidi is one prime example of it, but the likes of Anrich Nortje who bowl express bullets are quite so rare.
Youngsters like Dewald Brevis, Marco Jansen and Tristan Stubbs have risen through the ranks to carry South Africa towards a possibly better future. Stubbs was part of four games in the T20 World Cup 2022, and the only game he missed was the disappointing Netherlands game; while Marco Jansen, coming into this tournament as a replacement for the injured Dwaine Pretorius, didn’t even play at all.
The next big thing for South Africa’s cricket is going to be the 19-year-old Dewald Brevis who was left at home as their team took off for the Australian shores. The day before the senior side was knocked out of the T20 World Cup, Brevis even after failing in the CSA T20 challenge, was part of the side that won the trophy. He did experience both individual and collective success, but the issue for South Africa is to find high-quality players like Brevis from the larger pool. The administration or the players or the coach can’t take the game forward for South Africa single-handedly. They all need to come out together for a better future.
South Africa will now take part in an away three-match Test series against Australia, starting on December 17 at the Gabba in Brisbane. The SA20 league will begin on January 10 with the opening game between MI Cape Towns and Paarl Royals at the Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town.