There had been plenty of talk about the players’ mentality and again their ability to perform under pressure was scrutinised.
Faf du Plessis admitted that the body language of some of the Proteas players was not up to scratch at the World Cup, reflective of a mindset that he described as too “casual.”
Much was made by Du Plessis prior to the tournament about the players being more relaxed at the World Cup and not treating it as the “be all and end all” of their careers or lives.
However, that message did seem to get misinterpreted by some of the players with the defeat in the second match against Bangladesh illustrative of that.
The Proteas returned home yesterday after a disappointing World Cup in which they won just three out of nine matches and were virtually out of contention for the semi-finals by the third week. There had been plenty of talk about the players’ mentality and again their ability to perform under pressure was scrutinised.
The team’s coach Ottis Gibson said yesterday he was still bemused about why the side seemingly lacked the mental strength when it mattered in the first few weeks in England and Wales, saying confidence took a hit after the three defeats in the first six days of the tournament.
Du Plessis said he never wanted the players to go onto the field with a relaxed mindset and that a central component of his captaincy is a demand for greater intensity and strong body language.
“The context of having a relaxed mindset,” said the South African captain, “was meant to be when there was pressure on us as a team, to not feel overwhelmed by the situation, not look at it as if you’re going to die if you lose a game, don’t put extra pressure on yourself, having such a mindset at a World Cup.
“By no means ever, absolutely never, do we as a team or me as captain go onto the field with a chilled relaxed, let’s just go through the motions, attitude, it doesn’t work like that, that’s not how I captain.
“My biggest thing is always body language, intensity, that is an absolute non-negotiable.
“Looking back at that (Bangladesh) game however, in the first week, there were times when the team was a little bit casual.
“That was a chat we had after the Bangladesh game, ‘why was that, why wasn’t the body language good, is it a comfort-zone thing, because you’re playing a team that is not (seen as) a favourite at the World Cup.”
Du Plessis said some players “took a hard look at themselves afterwards,” and there was a major improvement in that department in the following game against India, where they “showed a huge amount of intensity and fight,” in a losing cause however.
Ultimately, injuries, inconsistent batting and that poor start to the tournament proved too much to overcome and while the last week saw the Proteas emerge victorious against Sri Lanka and Australia, those results did no more than restore some lost pride.
“As a team we go through the same emotions as the fans; disappointment, hurt, embarrassment, and that is normal. As captain, all I can say is ‘sorry,’ that is not the standard we expect of ourselves,” Du Plessis said.
Cricket South Africa’s Board of Directors will hold a special meeting next Saturday to decide on the future of Gibson as national team coach, the overall direction for the Proteas, which will include the appointment of a Director of Cricket and looking ahead to the 2023 World Cup.