A dreadful look into the Proteas’ crystal ball

A dreadful look into the Proteas’ crystal ball

Rassie van der Dussen of South Africa is bowled by Mohammad Saifuddin of Bangladesh (not pictured) during the Group Stage match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between South Africa and Bangladesh at The Oval on June 02, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

The picture is probably foggy given how early it still is in the World Cup, but it feels so scarily clear…

It’s on days like these – especially after the Proteas’ World Cup masterplan disintegrated further with the news that Dale Steyn is on his way home – where the anger and frustration lifts the fog from the crystal ball.

The situation in England has become so desperate that there’s no hiding behind “objectivity”, “patriotism” or even “optimism” when it comes rubbing the glassy sphere and peeking into South African cricket’s future after the showpiece tournament.

It’s not gloomy.

It’s pitch black dark.

The Proteas will return home having finished a depressing eighth, merely spared further embarrassment by the inadequacies of Sri Lanka and a lack of experience from the enthusiastic Afghanistan.

They’ll bemoan how Cricket South Africa’s (CSA’s) suits placed unnecessary pressure on head coach Ottis Gibson in the build-up by publicly pronouncing that any contract extension rested on the delivery of the trophy.

They’ll point to the West Indian being popular among the players, that on-field results shouldn’t overshadow relationships.

But they’ll conveniently forget how they didn’t exactly fight tooth and nail for their coach, none of them filled with raging fire to show a middle finger to the suits.

Hashim Amla will quietly retire with half-centuries against the top sides without support, illustrating that at 36 he’s probably still better than younger teammates without turning those platforms into hundreds.

Faf du Plessis will keep his sense of humour and thoughtfulness throughout, but there won’t be the magical feats of his predecessor and great friend, AB de Villiers.

He’s not the on-field control freak that De Villiers is – he doesn’t want to try to win everything by himself.

This wasn’t a campaign for superheroes, as Quinton de Kock reminded us constantly.

However, once he finds time for a new chapter in his cricketing thesis – De Kock told Cricinfo earlier that he has a “Masters in Cricket” – he’ll realise that maybe superheroes aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

History tells us that.

On productive days, relying on magicians like De Villiers takes the pressure off others, who serenely churn out hundreds in the shadows – like Amla and Du Plessis in 2015.

Heck, it even inspires JP Duminy and David Miller to compile world-record stands with South Africa in trouble against Zimbabwe in Hamilton.

But that was four years ago.

South Africa will learn it has an uncanny habit of mistaking potential for mediocrity.

Duminy and Miller had been chosen under the guise of experience without having actual experience of winning games when the stakes were at its highest.

They’ll end with sub-40 career averages, having made little attempt in reinventing themselves to be better.

At least unfashionable and pigeonholed Temba Bavuma did his best as Lions captain to change the perception that he’s not an attacking limited-overs batsman…

Many will excuse the unbalanced bowling attack, and rightly so, because as risky a trio of Rabada, Steyn and Ngidi was injury wise, it was the best plan the Proteas had.

There will be scoffs of indignation, but they’ll be silenced when one asks: who else was there?

Meanwhile, CSA will appear supportive of their biggest asset’s plight, bemoaning some bad luck.

They’ll use this painful experience as ammunition for ramming through their controversial domestic restructuring, shamelessly ignoring the very same assets that are keeping them afloat.

The court case against the South African Cricketers’ Association (Saca) will drag on as vanity and pride blind the governing body to the fact that all Tony Irish and the players want is honesty on the true state of the local game’s finances.

A projected loss of R654 million over four years renders that request nothing less than reasonable.

CSA won’t care too much.

They’re merely trying to “save” the game.

They’re the group of administrators who finally delivered the Mzansi Super League – granting broadcasting rights to a bankrupt national broadcaster for peanuts – despite simple economics dictating that it will never make money.

They’re a beacon for transformation by upholding stringent target requirements at domestic level.

But they don’t realise that those very same black players will be denied further growth if the money runs out and there’s no depth to compete against because professional players feel disillusioned.

As exhaustion sets in from all these gloomy images, the ball becomes foggy again … and I feel relieved.

Because fogginess means there’s a chance all this won’t come to pass…

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

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