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Where to now for Proteas?

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Five lessons the Proteas should have learnt from the Indian drubbing and gives coach Ottis Gibson a chance to express how he sees things

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ON the grounds that South Africa have routinely won bilateral series only to foolishly peak ahead of major ICC events, perhaps the “good hiding” India have handed the Proteas in this on-going ODI series bodes well for the future, but there were still major red flags raised over the course of the past five matches.

Zaahier Adams inspects five lessons the Proteas should have learnt from the Indian drubbing and gives coach Ottis Gibson a chance to express how he sees things

SA’s talent pool is shallow

Although he’s never quite said it himself, the consensus upon Gibson’s appointment was always going to be “Judge me after the 2019 World Cup”. With that in mind, the understanding was that the focus right now would be on “Vision 2019” as SA tried to widen their player base by fielding a couple of youngsters. Injuries before and during this Indian ODI series to AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock meant it had to be done through necessity instead of choice, resulting in some harrowing defeats.

Gibson: “You take three of your best batsmen out of any team, they will struggle, and when you do it against a very strong Indian team it has exposed us we will not make excuses but will try and get better. It’s been a good lesson and in a year’s time I think it will prove to have been a good lesson to learn right now. We’ve got a good hiding from India, let’s not kid ourselves about that, but 12 months from now we’ll be a lot stronger for having had this experience.”

Over dependence on
Amla and De kock

While every team in the world seeks a positive start from their openers, the Proteas are incredibly top heavy. In the last series in South Africa, which the Proteas won 2-0 De Kock struck consecutive centuries, while the pair put on partnerships of 152 and 194 in that series. The calming influence they exude at the crease allows stroke-makers like De Villiers, JP Duminy and David Miller to express themselves later on.

Gibson: “A lot of credit has to go to India. In almost every game, one of their top three has scored a hundred. We’ve got one hundred and when you look at the series those are the differences. Hash has got 26 hundreds in one-day cricket so he knows how to do it, but he’s not been allowed to.”

Where was the fighting ‘gees’

“Protea Fire” was not chosen as the slogan of the national team without reason. South African cricket teams are designed to show character, guts and indomitable spirit. It is the nature of the beast. However, the capitulations – especially with the bat – during this series were embarrassing.

Gibson: “We succumbed quite easily, to be bowled out in 42 overs is very disappointing from a batting point of view. Even with the bowling there were some soft boundaries, which has gone on the whole series. So just a bit more fight with the bat. The Indian spinners got six wickets again. I know that they are very good but we are also better than we have shown I’d like to see us prove ourselves right in that regard.”

The markram over-burden

Still the only SA captain to lift an ICC World Cup trophy over his head, there is a readiness to believe that Markram can carry the world on his tender shoulders. However, he is still adjusting to the pace at international level, and handing the 23-year-old the responsibility of leading a team that was still finding its feet too may just have been a bridge too far.

Gibson: “I don’t know if the whole responsibility around captaining has been too much for him but it seems he is trying to bat in a way that is not the Aiden Markram I saw in September. I’ve spoken to him about that. This was a decision for the future, not a decision for now. Looking back I think it was the right decision, I’m not going to second-guess myself.”

Proteas in a spin …

It was surprising to see the batting unit surrender to the turning ball in the manner they did. Wrist-spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal claimed 30 wickets in the series and exposed a frailty against spin not seen in South African teams since the 1990’s.

Gibson: “I think India has two world-class spinners and they might spin it anywhere, but we’ve got a whole year to learn to deal with that stuff. But I don’t believe it will spin that much in England next year.”