The lack of time.
That was Proteas coach Ottis Gibson’s best excuse after their miserable World Cup campaign finally ended at the weekend.
He claims because of retirements, injuries, the ongoing Kolpak exodus and out-of-form players he could have done with more time to build a team.
Time might have soothed some of these pains, but most surely would not have fixed everything.
And judging by how far the team was from the mark I doubt whether a few tweaks in personnel would have dramatically changed their fortunes, especially not their poor fielding for one.
And even with all the problems, once all the pressure was off they looked like champions with the very same players who performed so dismally at the start of the tournament.
Suddenly a side who was taught a cricket lesson by Bangladesh put form-side Australia to bed.
And don’t tell me the Aussies didn’t care, because a win for them would have ensured a semifinal against New Zealand which was a much better prospect than England.
There is some merit in Gibson’s argument.
Since he took over the reins, AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel retired, Duanne Olivier left on a Kolpak deal, Dale Steyn and Anrich Nortje were ruled out of the World Cup, with niggles ruling Lungi Ngidi out at times, Kagiso Rabada seemed flat after his IPL stint and experienced players like Dave Miller and JP Duminy have been rubbish since Gibson started in September 2017.
But in all fairness, these problems were part of Gibson’s job.
He wasn’t the first Proteas coach to deal with the likes of injuries, retirements or Kolpak losses.
Having been around almost two years, he should have had a Plan B and even Plan C in place for every player, because life happens.
Counting on a fit Steyn was always a long shot taking his recent injury history into account, Olivier and Nortje have only played six one-day internationals between them and there was never any guarantee they would have done any better than the bowlers that did go to the World Cup.
And if Cricket South Africa couldn’t prevent Rabada from too much action in the IPL, why did they insist he plays in all the Test and ODI series this summer?
Wasn’t this the ideal chance to deepen the fast bowler pool?
Chris Morris, who turned out to be a very dependable bowler at the World Cup, wasn’t even included in the original squad and only got called up when Nortje was ruled out.
Gibson goes on to use England as an example, saying how it took four years building their current ODI team.
But what about Australia? Hardly a year ago they were rocked by the ball-tampering scandal, losing their two best
batsmen and coach in the aftermath.
They were in complete disarray with Justin Langer taking over as coach and having to deal with overhauling the whole Australian cricketing system to get away from their arrogant image.
Today they are playing England in the semifinals as a tight unit with a coach that’s been there for hardly a year and a new star in Alex Carey who came out of nowhere.
“The country craves a World Cup,” said Gibson after their exit.
“I get that now and I probably get it now more than ever.”
Too late for that my friend.