14 June 2019, by: Carl Lewis

PROTEAS CWC CONCERNS AND WHAT FAF SAYS

It’s been the worst beginning imaginable to the ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC) for the Proteas. They came into the tournament as possible dark horses. 

They are yet to win a match at the CWC having lost to England, Bangladesh and India. Their solitary point came from a rained out fixture against the Windies. That’s just the on-field stuff.

BET: South Africa v Afghanistan

There’s been off-field drama with news breaking about AB de Villiers offer to come out of retirement threatening to derail the campaign before it picked up any momentum.

We take a look at some of the burning issues surrounding the Proteas camp.

Hashim Amla's form

Two half-centuries in the Proteas warm-up games got Proteas fans excited and seemed to vindicate the selector’s decision to include Hashim Amla in the World Cup squad.

Scores of 13, 6 and 6 have swiftly dampened those spirits and reignited the debate around the selection of the legend Amla. The veteran looks unsure of himself out in the middle. These were concerns of mine when he played in the recent domestic T20 competition. He doesn’t seem to have the extra gears which made him such an effective and dynamic ODI batsman anymore.

Faf du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson have a big call to make regarding Amla at the top order. The 36-year-old’s direct competition hasn’t fared much better. Although Aiden Markram does have a highest score of 45 (In the South Africa context where the highest score is 68, this is respectable), he has also struggled at the top of the order.

It hasn’t helped that there is uncertainty about his place in the team as well as his batting position. Selectors must make a decision and stick with it for at least 2-3 matches.

What Faf says about Amla:

“Hash is a class player. We are hoping that it’s around the corner for him.”

What Batting coach Dale Benkenstein says:</strong

“When he got here, he looked in unbelievable form and he looks amazing in the nets. He is a class player and I’m 100% sure it is just around the corner.”

Major concern around the batting unit

South Africa’s top order has looked as innocuous and tentative as ever in England. The batting unit was always a major concern, for a few years now, if we are really honest. The Proteas highest individual score, 68, courtesy of Quinton de Kock is indicative of how far behind the batting is compared to rest of the top teams.

 

The ever-changing composition of the batting lineup has also not helped the Proteas cause. They haven’t looked settled, there hasn’t been continuity in selection and the batters look decidedly at sea against pace and spin.

What Benkenstein says:

“Confidence as batters is huge in a World Cup. They do feel the extra pressure. Our history doesn’t help … and we’re trying to deal with it. The guys have been a bit nervous and I think that has shown.”

“The batters have to step up, and we haven’t at the moment. I feel like they’ve batted well, but they haven’t batted long enough.”

“Everyone has got in and we’ve had opportunities to gets 100s and 100 partnerships to win games, but we’ve just got out. To me, it’s just a mental thing. It’s a hunger.”

Faf on AB de Villiers drama

As if the on-field drama wasn’t enough. Last week news broke of AB de Villiers last-ditch attempt to unretire himself and offer his services to the Proteas on the eve of the World Cup squad announcement. It must be noted that de Villiers had on a handful of occasions stated he was contented with his decision to retire.

Whatever story you believe, the fact is that the news arrived at a time when the team could hardly deal with any other sideshows. The performances on the field were enough of a concern. Now a retired player was filling the thoughts and owning the narrative for a few days.

 

Although Faf du Plessis said in instances such as these, it can bind a team together to achieve a common goal. It remains to be seen what the effect of the AB news will be.

What Faf said on AB de Villiers:

“We do feel like the news came through the team, it didn’t have a huge impact. We just had a discussion for clarity so that everyone knew what was going on. The team is happy to get on with business, but stuff like that, can give you direction and give you a purpose.”

“AB didn’t come to me, it was just a phone call the night before the team got announced. It was just a ‘this is what I am feeling’. I said to him I think it is too late but I’ll check in with the coach and the selectors the next morning. We all agreed that it was way-way too late.

Faf on lifting his players

How do you stay motivate a group that has yet to win a match; suffered convincing defeats to England, India and Bangladesh and has had to deal with ghosts of a former player?

This is a huge test for Gibson and skipper du Plessis. Do the Proteas have the capacity and are they in the mental space to manage five wins on the trot?

What Faf says:

“Generally, I found that when a team starts losing 2 or 3 games, a few cracks can appear in the team and the blame game can start. I do believe we have been very far away from that.”

“You need individuals within your side, to stand up and step up, and pull the team up. KG did that against India and picked the team up against India. He picked the bowling unit up by being that X-factor player that he is. Right now we need an individual to lift the team’s morale and other players can feed off their confidence.”

Injuries have compounded Proteas misery

The South African camp has been rocked by injuries at the World Cup, even before the event. The talk of injuries has been overlooked somewhat because of the desperately poor performances on the field from those who are fit.

Fast bowler Anrich Nortje could not take his place on the plane for the CWC because of injury. He was replaced by all-rounder Chris Morris, which could be a blessing in disguise considering the lack of quality shifts from the batting unit.

Nortje was not the only fast bowler to be struck by injury. Dale Steyn had to be sent home after not playing in any of the Proteas three opening matches. The camp lost a proven world-class performer, experience and a popular member of the squad.

Lungi Ngidi also had to sit out the Windies match. He limped off with a hamstring injury during the loss against Bangladesh. According to the Proteas camp, Ngidi should be fit and firing for Afghanistan on Saturday in Cardiff.

Outlook on the remaining 5 matches

It really has been a disastrous start to the CWC. At this stage, the Proteas are already playing catch up and must hope certain results go their way. Added to this, they must win all of their remaining matches.

 

South Africa have five matches in the round-robin stage of the CWC. The maximum points they can accumulate is 11. New Zealand and India are already more than halfway there (11 points).

The log should tell a clearer story after the weekend’s action. Unfortunately, whatever the results in the other matches may be, South Africa have to win all of their remaining matches. They must also hope none of them are abandoned due to rain because that’s become a huge factor in this CWC.

Tons of pressure on a team who are yet to register a victory.

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