South Africa is generally accepted as being one of the top teams in the world over the past decade. Although known for their inability to perform on the big stage in the knockout stages of major ICC events, South Africa nevertheless always look like a formidable unit ahead of any big tournament. One recalls the devastating loss to New Zealand in the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015, after what had been a successful campaign for the Proteas until then. On paper, the sheer strength of the South African team boasting of AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada can easily cause nightmares for any opposition in the world.
Therefore, the long tour by India was highly anticipated as it gave fans a chance to witness what potentially were the two best cricket teams in the world battle it out in a grueling series. The Test series began on a competitive note with South Africa taking an early lead with a 72-run victory over India. After losing the Test series post the second Test, India looked a different unit altogether with a victory in the third and final Test at Johannesburg followed by a dominating performance in the ODIs and T20Is. Something clearly went wrong for South Africa which resulted in some rather embarrassing performances on the field. Let’s attempt to analyse what has gone downhill in South African cricket:
One of the most talked about issues in South African cricket over the past year or two has been that of the Kolpak deal, wherein, over 60 cricketers from around the world have moved to England and given up national duties. The Kolpak deal guarantees cricketers financial security and a chance to play competitive county cricket in England and therefore many players opt for the deal even though it results in them not being eligible to play international cricket. South Africa have lost out on a lot of talent including Kyle Abbott, Rillee Rossouw, David Wiese and Richard Levi to the Kolpak deal in the last two years, thereby diluting the strength of the South African national team.
Injuries have plagued the South African dressing room with some of their top cricketers becoming easily prone to injury. It is not easy to identify the exact causes for the same – whether it is the fault of the players, or the lack in knowledgeable support staff for the players. In the recently concluded ODI and T20I series against India, South Africa were forced to field a second string side due to injuries to their top players.
Inability to inspire the next generation
A generation of Indians took to cricket when Kapil Dev lifted the World Cup trophy at Lord’s in 1983 and Indian cricket hasn’t looked back since. The inability of the South African team to perform on the big stage and bring home some silverware is perhaps one of the primary reasons that it has not been able to inspire another generation of youngsters to follow the footsteps of De Villiers, Amla and Steyn. South African cricket has a lot of superstars but that accounts for very little if they cannot inspire the next generation.
Instability in CSA
Cricket South Africa – the governing body for the sport in the country, has been facing a lot of instability in the past few years. This has led to a lot of issues such as the delay in the launch of the much awaited Global T20 League. The T20 tournament set to replace the Ram Slam in South Africa was expected to compete with international leagues such as the IPL, BBL and CPL. This league could potentially open the doors for new talent to come through and make their way to the national team, but the political instability in CSA has to be sorted out before that can be done.
It will be interesting to see where South Africa go from here as a lot of its cricketing superstars are approaching the twilight of their careers and the transition to the next lot of players will be crucial. All that they need is one big win to instill confidence in themselves and the next generation that they too can win on the big stage, and there will be no better opportunity to do that than the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England.