Proteas Need to Regroup and Quick!
Vision looks blurry and future dark
“We have always been a team to focus on the now and when we are getting to a big tournament, that becomes your focus as well. This is the first time, we have taken a small step away from the now and a bigger step into the future. This is the first time that any conversation we have had as a selection panel or coach and captain is to see how we can look at more players. I have never been involved in a vision like that. The now is very important and we play series to win but there is a big focus on how we can get a lot of guys opportunity because a year and a half or two years from now, you want to make sure there’s a group of players that have had time in the middle and time in pressure situations so you don’t just hope your XI is fit all the time”
These were the words of Faf du Plessis before the ODIs against India. South Africa had identified 'Vision 2019’, a supposedly concrete, well outlined plan to bring home the coveted World Cup. Their head coach, Ottis Gibson, and Faf du Plessis had been pretty vocal about how the net needs to spread wider before the tournament and South Africa needed to experiment a lot.
Five matches into the Indian series and the vision not only appears blurry but the future beyond looks dark and cloudy. Injury concerns to Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis marred South Africa's progress but more worrying was the sheer lack of fight from the second line of experienced players.
JP Duminy made a total of 99 runs in the 5 matches with the single half-century being his first in 20 ODIs. David Miller appeared clueless against spin although a match-turning knock courtesy a dropped chance and a no-ball saved him the blushes. Hashim Amla did not even face spin in the first four games as he fell to Jasprit Bumrah twice.
The bowling was pathetic, if anything. Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Lungi Ngidi bowled short when it needed to be full, could not take wickets upfront and bowled fodder to Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan. When they finally managed to send them both back early, Rohit Sharma made them pay.
Imran Tahir was 'rested’ but it seemed like the World’s no.1 ODI bowler could do little to overturn their fortunes. Tabraiz Shamsi impressed in bits and pieces but could not silence India. Andile Phehlukwayo was so poor that he needed a 5 ball 23 with the bat to hide his flaws with the ball. Chris Morris erred, bowled decently, erred again and South Africa are left with more questions than answers.
The only guy to give them some reassurance has been Heinrich Klaasen with his funky batting style and interesting shots. He has also handled the spinners much better and could just be the challenge Quinton de Kock needs to find back his lost mojo.
The World Cup isn't far away and the Proteas need to regroup as soon as possible. They need to answer quite a few questions first before they are in the path to redemption.
Are they sure of carrying a bits and pieces JP Duminy to the World Cup? Are Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo the answers to their all-rounder slots? Can they stick with three seamers who bring pretty much similar stuff to the table? When all players are fit and firing does Markram fit into the XI?
They have answers to none of these questions at the moment. But a start could be to walk the talk and spread the net wider. They need to start blooding fresh talent,the Momentum One Day Cup performers, and stick by them for a while. The selection of Khaya Zondo was controversial and belies logic particularly with him returning with few runs in the domestic cup.
A few like Jon-Jon Smuts, Dwaine Pretorius and Theunis de Bruyn deserve a go first up because they are all like for like replacements (for Duminy, Phehlukwayo and Zondo respectively). There are several others waiting in the pipeline.
Bringing variety to their bowling attack could be the next agenda. A left-arm seamer would lend a different angle but Wayne Parnell is the only one in sight and he has been far too inconsistent.
The Aiden Markram conundrum is interesting. He hasn't quite fit into the ODI scheme of things yet but ends the series having captained the side for five matches. His performances need to get better if he is to retain his place in the side, which at the moment can only be at the expense of Duminy.
South Africa have the personnel available but they are just being ignored horribly and this has made their 'Vision 2019’ a haze at the moment. They need to pick up pace and quick if they are to compete against some of the stronger sides.