Sunday, October 13, 2019

Always darkest before dawn

In a recent interview, former New Zealand cricketer Kruger van Wyk noted how teams that do their planning should not go through transitions, and all teams should do their planning. But of course, that is not always the case, and teams most certainly do go through transitions. But this is most certainly a transition. At the moment, South Africa have lost four Tests in a row. Dating back to the dramatic Australian series, South Africa have lost three of their last four series, including this one. Of those three, two of them have been whitewashes with one Test left in this series to avoid back-to-back whitewashes.

It isn't just the results that indicates struggle and difficulty. The batting line-up is not settled. Theunis de Bruyn has played over 10 Test matches, and his average seems to somehow be sinking, which is saying something, considering the fact that it was pretty low to start off with. The search for Temba Bavuma's ideal batting position seems to be never ending, but unfortunately it is not trending in the correct direction. He batted at four and then five this game, but did show some promise batting five in the second innings. Aiden Markram is another player who seems to have gotten worse the more time he has spent in the national set-up.

In the last 20-odd months, South Africa has lost AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, and Dale Steyn (in Tests anyway) to retirement. Players who were envisioned to take over the batting and bowling reins have signed Kolpak contracts, and as a result, much talent has been lost, as well as institutional knowledge. It is very difficult to make the jump without pointers from more experienced players, and these experienced players are currently circling the globe in T20 competitions or experienced cold winters in the United Kingdom.

The good news is the Springboks have shown that even without a huge change in playing staff, with a skilled backroom, and some tweaks, transitions that look like they may take a few years can happen very quickly. Even the Proteas, who have had the good fortune of not having to go through a transition for nearly 15 years, can look to their own history and look at the year 2006, when they lost 2-0 to Australia in Australia, then 3-0 to Australia in South Africa. South Africa bounced back and beat New Zealand 2-0 in South Africa, but then they lost a two Test series to Sri Lanka 2-0, and by that stage the Proteas had lost three series in four. From 2004 until the Sri Lankan tour, South Africa won three of the ten series they played in. That didn't seem like a Launchpad for a dynasty, more especially when they then lost the home opener vs India the next series at the Wanderers. But from the Ashes of that horror run, South Africa discovered and found a nucleus. AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, and Morne Morkel all made their debut's in that 10 series run. Ashwell Prince cemented his spot in the side, and South Africa would go on to lose one series in nearly seven years. Sometimes change really is just around the corner, all you have to do is keep the hope. The entire thinking behind the ProteaFire campaign is that no matter how bad a fire, the Protea flower will rise like a phoenix  Protea from the Ashes and pollinate and grow again and stuff.

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