In 2012, the South African cricket team, known as the Proteas, were the first in the history of the game to be ranked top of the World rankings in all three formats of the game (Test, ODI and T20). In the latest 2019 rankings, the Proteas are 4th in both Test and T20 rankings and 5th in the ODI (One Day) format.
Recent poor performances in the World Cup and a disastrous tour of India have increased the pressure on the players and Cricket South Africa (CSA) administrators, to get their house in order, both on and off the pitch. At the recent ICC World Cup, South Africa finished 7th among the 10 participating nations and the recent tour of India ended with a series white wash and a loss by an innings in two of the three tests.
Our cricketers will have to up their game if they want to challenge a strong allround English side which will be visiting our shores this month. England will play an SA Invitational team and an SA A-team prior to the first test against South Africa at Centurion Park in Pretoria on 26 December.
The profile for the test series is heightened in that the series will form part of the inaugural 2019/2021 ICC World Test Championships. The schedule for the England visit includes 4 tests, 3 ODIs and 3 T20s. Immediately after the English visit, the team from Down Under will arrive to contest 3 ODIs and 3 T20s. These Aussies will be out to seek revenge after the disgrace of the sandpaper ball tampering which cast shame on Australian cricket.
After the euphoria of the Springbok World Cup triumph, cricket supporters will be looking for an upsurge in our cricket performances. After the Springbok victory and the Proteas’ misfortunes, quips abounded on social media, among them, “Rassie, how well versed are you on cricket?” referring to the Bok coach’s successful upliftment of the Springbok team from a similar position that cricket now finds itself in. This rise in Springbok fortunes under Rassie took place over a period of less than two years.
Hopes were raised when West Indian international and former assistant coach of the English team, Otis Gibson was appointed head coach of the Proteas. After a successful initial period, Gibson and his coaching staff took the fall after the demise of our team at the World Cup. Then, in August this year, a “new dawn” for SA Cricket was announced with the interim appointment of Enoch Nkwe, coach of the Lions franchise, as team manager of the Proteas.
The idea was that the team manager would fulfil a similar role to that of an English Premier League football manager. He would have far-reaching powers, including the appointment of his support-coaching staff. A successful tenure with a provincial franchise does not necessarily translate into a successful national coach. Nkwe was at the helm during the disastrous tour of a cricket-crazy India where pitches and the whole ambiance were vastly different to South African conditions.
A question that springs to mind is why someone like Mark Boucher was overlooked for the position. He has all the credentials in that he is familiar with playing conditions in all cricketing countries, having starred as a Proteas wicket-keeper/batsman in the international cricket arena. He has also had a successful coaching career with the Pretoria Titan’s franchise. Another Protea international who could add value to the coaching staff is Neil Mckenzie, former Proteas batting coach and batting consultant to Bangladesh during the recent World Cup. Both these players have similar careers to that of Rassie Erasmus. They played at international level over a period of time and have successful coaching credentials.
Writing on a similar topic in the Daily Maverick, legendary cricket journalist, Colin Bryden reports as follows: “CSA itself is running at a financial loss, sponsors are in short supply and there is a deepening rift between the governing body and the SA Cricketers’ Association (SACA), which represents the country’s players.” In the article, Bryden describes “the friction between CSA and SACA” as “toxic”. He goes on to write, “SACA has taken CSA to court over its plans to restructure domestic cricket and it’s failing to adhere to the agreement to consult with them”.
This environment and the recent poor performances of the team do not bode well for the incoming tours which are around the corner. We have done wonders in creating a winning formula for South African rugby. Maybe Cricket South Africa needs to take a leaf out of the rugby book and follow the same route.