CSA threat of 'win it or else' is not the way Proteas want to begin their quest for Holy Grail
Last week Independent Media cricket writer Stuart Hess interviewed Cricket South Africa chief executive Thabang Moroe.
Tucked away in the piece was the following gem: “As things stand,” Hess quoted Moroe saying about national coach Ottis Gibson (pictured), “he’s not getting a contract extension unless he wins the World Cup.”
The story revealed that Gibson knows that winning the World Cup is a condition of his contract extension, so you could argue that he’s gone into this predicament with his eyes open.
Even taking this into account, though, the Moroe quote seems remarkably ungenerous. Or thoughtless. Or both.
Moroe doesn’t say along with this, for example: “We, as CSA, will, however, do everything in our power to help Gibson and the players win the World Cup”.
He doesn’t say that the World Cup has become a bit of a Holy Grail for South African cricket and we’re trying to be realistic in our expectation.
No. He says that Gibson has to win it or else.
There is, of course, some context here, context Moroe seems disinclined to discuss.
South Africa have conspired to knock themselves out of World Cups for nigh on 20 years, so much so that it’s become one of the poor taste jokes of South Africa’s fledgling democracy.
We see, then, that there’s a deforming context here. There is an expectation in excess of what the current side might reasonably achieve.
There’s pain and disappointment and confusion, yet Moroe, a CEO who sups controversy in the way that others sip a cup of tea, behaves like a cross between the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu and an English Premiership manager.
Win it or else!
A couple of days after Moroe’s statement, the team he hopes will win the World Cup in England this winter played their first ODI at home this season. Perhaps thinking that Pakistan would be the pushovers they were in the Tests, South Africa casually meandered to 266/2.
At the change of innings, Mark Nicholas, the normally unflappable English commentator moonlighting for SuperSport, was puzzled. He muttered about the Proteas’ innings being a throwback to how 50-over cricket was played 10 or even 15 years ago.
On a by far from straightforward wicket, it was a sedate, blithely untroubled meander to a total neither one thing nor another. Perhaps South Africa reasoned it was enough because they would simply bomb Pakistan.
It didn’t happen, Pakistan winning by five wickets.
To be fair, there were extenuating circumstances. Rassie van der Dussen was on debut and anxious to do well. He and Hashim Amla batted for much of the innings together and Amla was anxious to do well for other reasons. Some believe it is moot that he should be in the ODI side at all.
The two forged a kind of negative consensus together, batting for themselves rather than the team.
Then Faf du Plessis took an eternity to discover that Pakistan weren’t simply going to collapse like a line of dominoes.
He needed to impose himself on the game, attack rather than defend, but it was too late.
Humiliated in SA for a month, Pakistan weren’t going to let the opportunity pass them by. They knew they could beat the Proteas because they did so at the Champions Trophy in England last year. South Africa were as dreadful in that tournament as they were at St George’s.
Talk of winning the World Cup, from whatever quarter, is – as usual – premature.