South Africa’s journey in the 2019 World Cup has been the most dreadful to watch. A team that was once feared by every opposition became a pushover of the tournament. They’ve undeniably been their worst. Be it their batting, bowling or fielding – all seemed toothless. Even luck seemed not to be favouring them. The list of what went wrong in their campaign can be countless but here are 13 Reasons Why South Africa’s journey was a disaster:
South Africa were never favourites to win this World Cup but injuries to their important players cost them dearly.
Anrich Nortje was another promising player whose injury affected South Africa greatly. Not many know of him but his raw pace also termed as ‘bowling at speed of lightning’ is what the Proteas were missing out the most. His inclusion in the WC squad was a good surprise, could’ve been a trump card for South Africa but sadly, he fractured his thumb a week before they departed for the World cup.
Vernon Philander, though not a first choice, was also unavailable due to injury.
As if injuries hadn’t haunted them enough, they had to face another blow in their game against Bangladesh where they lost Lungi Ngidi to a hamstring strain which ended up him missing out on next three games. For a team that came in the World Cup considering the pace attack its strength, the injuries sure as hell made it agonizing.
Well, that’s not it - Hashim Amla, who looked good in the warm-up games was hit on the head by a Jofra Archer’s bouncer in the World Cup opener which made him miss the next game against Bangladesh and also affected his somewhat returning form. He played like anything but the star Amla that everyone knows of.
South Africa’s planning for the World Cup was below par and it showed. They gambled with their key players’ fitness, selected partially fit players in the squad only for them to be injured when needed most is a fine display of their failed strategy.
South Africa in ODI World Cups ©Cricingif
Their management of Kagiso Rabada – leader of the attack and also South Africa’s most important weapon has been dismaying. Rabada has bowled the most overs for a fast bowler in the last three years, which explains his appalling performance. He’s tired and has clearly lost pace. Rabada, who is the highest wicket-taker in the world since the 2015 World Cup, couldn’t make his presence count. He has only managed to grab six wickets in seven games and wasn’t half as effective as other pacers who are ruling the World Cup.
But the primary reason still is the poor performance from the side in all three departments, especially batting and fielding.
South Africa’s batting was never its stronghold this World Cup but had more potential than what they had displayed. They batted poorly throughout the tournament. No batsman could cement a place in top 10 run scorers of the tournament. Opening pair of Amla and Quinton de Kock would usually get any opponent on their toes but they’ve been really poor. Safe to say Amla is past his prime. Although, a big name in world cricket, his recent form made his inclusion in the World Cup squad raise serious questions. Many weren’t sure about him but people gave him the benefit of doubt for his experience. He proved his critics right as he struggled against everyone. Amla scored just one half-century in his six games, that too at a strike rate of just 60. De Kock was the go-to man for South Africa, the man you could count on but his reckless batting and disappointing dismissals let down everyone. Another disappointment has been David Miller, known for his aggressive batting and good fielding, Miller was anything but himself in this tournament.
Chris Morris, South Africa's leading wicket-taking pacer in CWC19, wasn't even in the initial squad ©AFP
Once known for being sensational in that department, South Africa disappointed the fans in the fielding as well. South Africa’s fielding has deteriorated and was one of the major reasons why they lost their matches. Missed run outs, dropped catches, sloppy fielding – it was a horror show.
South Africa’s bowling, even though better than their batting and fielding, wasn’t up to the mark. For a team that claimed their bowling attack as best in the world, they weren’t half as good as other teams. In a tournament ruled by pacers, no South African quick could mark their place in top 10 wicket-takers in the tournament.
The Proteas started their journey with a conservative approach by heavily relying on their partially fit bowling attack but that backfired. It seemed like they came in this World Cup with plan A and when that didn’t work, they had no plan B. South Africa weren’t flexible in their approach. They failed to read the conditions well and hence, couldn’t adjust likewise.
They played defensive cricket throughout. Batsmen looked scared while batting, bowlers kept bowling wide and short, they couldn’t bowl consistently at a good length and bowling yorkers seemed a concept unknown to them. The overall body language of the team was quite negative. The only win that came off was against Afghanistan, and even that wasn’t satisfactory.
Aiden Markram has been below-par in the World Cup ©AFP
Even captain Faf du Plessis, usually known for his aggressive captaincy, seemed to play it safe. Horrid field positions – failing to build pressure by giving away easy singles and no slips ensured South Africa miss out on many outside edges. His management of bowlers wasn’t effective either, Be it giving that last over to struggling Andile Phehlukwayo against New Zealand or lack of communication with bowlers on the field, Du Plessis’ captaincy was a serious concern.
Where the bowling seemed pretty balanced in the initial squad, South Africa lacked depth in their batting. They did have likes of Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and David Miller but that wasn’t enough. The lower middle order was in shambles. Chris Morris, who is South Africa’s highest wicket taking fast bowler this World Cup, wasn’t even in the squad at first place. He was brought in as a replacement for Nortje. Having just two all-rounders in the initial squad – Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius - ensured South Africa had a long tail which no team can afford in today’s cricket with ODI’s becoming a batsman’s game.
One major lacking in their performance was the fighting spirit. Except for their match against New Zealand where the players gave it their all, they seemed to lack intent and looked disinterested. It was like none of them wanted to be there.
Be it coach Ottis Gibson’s cool approach about losing to England not being a big deal or repeated statements from captain Du Plessis about how life will go on after the World Cup or De Kock’s comment about how IPL meant more to him, it only revealed their lack of interest in the tournament. The whole ‘stay under the radar’ strategy would’ve been nice had they played well, but with this performance, it’s just plain sad. When you play in an event as big as the World Cup, you don’t take it lightly. Least you can do is show some determination.
Kolpak deals have drained much of the cricket talent from the country. The likes of Rilee Rossouw, Duanne Olivier, Merchant de Lange, Colin Ingram, David Wiese, Kyle Abbott, Hardus Viljoen, Wayne Parnell and many others have dented the number of options available. Of all the Kolpak deals signed, 70 per cent of them involved South Africans. South Africa’s lack of genuine all-rounders and depth in batting could somewhat be addressed had they had a pool of players lost to Kolpak available.
SACA taking Cricket South Africa to the courts over a change in the structure of domestic cricket only added to the mental stress of the team management. Lack of unity among the two bodies has created distress. CSA planning to restructure the domestic cricket from a two-tiered system to one tier isn’t welcomed by the players’ association. This disruption between the two bodies has put CSA in a less commanding position, making players less accountable.
It’s no secret that South Africa’s salary packages for cricketers aren’t alluring. Many players don’t earn much which explains why they participate in leagues around the world or are signing Kolpak deals. A recent example is that of Duanne Olivier. Despite getting a central contract from CSA, he chose a Kolpak deal simply because playing for a county gets you more money than playing for South Africa’s national team.
CSA’s plan to restructure its domestic cricket is also based on financial reasons which is why it’s opposed by SACA who claim the move will end up with 70 players losing their contracts and others having their earnings reduced.
AB de Villiers also once stated how being a T20 star is more profitable and less stressful than playing for the Proteas. If you make your star players feel that way, then there is a great need for addressing these concerns. Giving a comfortable and safe environment by providing financial security to its players should be the top priority for CSA.
The news of AB de Villiers taking back his retirement for the World Cup at a stage where South Africa were on their lowest had its repercussions. Despite facing major backlash by media and fans, it still was the top story and the most asked question in every presser of the team. You don’t want that extra pressure where you’re expected to prove your decision was more rational than emotional. Filling the boots of de Villiers was hard enough for the team, the controversy of his return just made it worse.
Faf du Plessis and Ottis Gibson will need to answer the tough questions on their to South Africa ©AFP
Like it or not but quotas have had their impact on South Africa’s campaign, not only in this World Cup but every World Cup they’ve played in. Enforcing strict quotas might be politically correct but it comes with great consequences. Where CSA’s decision of no quotas in this World Cup was a welcoming one, it wasn’t enough to minimize the deep-rooted impact it had on the overall structure of the game. Be it losing the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Grant Elliot to other countries or losing other talented players to Kolpak, playing a certain 11 or narrowing the chances of white players in their formative days, South Africa have had to face the music. Being morally fair doesn’t win you world cups, being ruthlessly good does. Take the example of Jofra Archer, England changed their laws to have the outsider in their squad, South Africa, on the other hand, lose their own best to the laws. It’s all about priorities.
Where Australia and England made sure they don’t let their key players participate in Indian Premier League this year, which took place a month prior to the World Cup, Cricket South Africa didn’t have the guts to upset the BCCI. Rabada, Steyn, Du Plessis, De Kock and Miller all made sure to appear in the IPL, hence, compromising on their fitness and rest for the World Cup. IPL is good money and good exposure for players but the decision to participate in it taking into account the timing of the league and the risk associated with it showed where the players’ priorities lie.
South Africa enter every world cup with extra baggage – the title of ‘the chokers’ – on their shoulders. This time again, despite not being favorites they were still a third best-ranked team in the world and had many expectations.
Good news: They didn’t choke this time.
Bad news: They were too poor to choke even.
South Africa can tick at least this goal from their World Cup target list as they successfully avoided the chokers tag this time but it wasn’t how they wanted it to be. From always being the tournament favourites who lose high-pressure games to never getting to that stage where you’re expected to win, is a new low for South African cricket.