COMMENT: Why the Proteas avoided making tough decisions in the Cricket World Cup

South Africa's captain Temba Bavuma reacts while fielding during the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) second semi-final match between Australia and South Africa at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata

Temba Bavuma was the best batter in the Proteas side all year, however, he showed very little of that form during the Cricket World Cup, failing to cross the half-century mark. Picture Arun Sankar/AFP

Published Nov 20, 2023


It is without a doubt that Cricket World Cup semi-final exit of the Proteas last week was like no other.

Despite it being a semi-final defeat to Australia, it was not anywhere near the 1999 World Cup debacle, the 2007 defeat or even the 2015 loss, where the ‘chokers’ tag was epitomised by the Proteas.

On the batting front, David Miller fought with his century in the three-wicket defeat at Eden Gardens, and so did Heinrich Klaasen, while Quinton de Kock and captain Temba Bavuma looked a shadow of themselves.

With regard to the captain Bavuma, a question remains unattended.

Should Reeza have played?

Could he have been rested, to allow a fit and hungry Reeza Hendricks to have a go at the Australian pace attack?

“... Not a 100 percent, but I guess it should do..." said a seemingly tired Bavuma at the toss for the Kolkata semi-final.

Bavuma was the best batter in the Proteas side all year, meaning he was the main reason behind South Africa’s automatic qualification to the World Cup in India.

However, he showed very little of that form during the tournament, failing to cross the half-century mark.

Form is one thing that perhaps could have been used as a reason to give him a rest.

The hamstring discomfort that the skipper picked up during the last round-robin game against Afghanistan became an even bigger topic.

It kept Bavuma out of high intensity training days before the semi-final and even on the eve of the Australia showdown, there had been no confirmation of his return to full fitness.

This is the tough decision that could have been taken by the management staff and the captain himself.

Save Bavuma for the final?

Hendricks was on tour, and had a couple of World Cup games under the belt, including a half-century against England.

Was this not enough reason to let the captain get fully fit for the final, when the Proteas really needed him on the field?

The decision ultimately relied on two individuals – coach Rob Walter and Bavuma.

Now, it is not clear how the dynamics work in the Proteas team and understandably so, since Walter took over only a few months ago.

I mean, Keshav Maharaj was vice-captain to Bavuma for a long time before his injury.

However, even upon his return to play, Aiden Markram still assumed the captaincy responsibilities in Bavuma’s absence.

So, who had the power to decide to leave out Bavuma last Thursday?

Walter could have made the decision himself, but so does Bavuma – and just place trust in Hendricks, who has been in good form in the green and gold.

Tough decisions need to be taken

Until it is a norm to take tough decisions, South Africa will find it hard to compete at the highest level.

The Black Caps did not have an unfit Kane Williamson on the field at the early stages of the World Cup despite the captain’s return to play in the warm-up games, and instead, they backed Will Young and Rachin Ravindra to carry the team forward.

In contrast, India dropped Shardul Thakur – one of the most consistent performers in the Indian team – but because he lacked form during the World Cup, he had to sit out and make way for an in-form player.

Moreover, the Proteas side and the entire setup are very different to New Zealand’s and India. But even so, a tough decision had to be made, and South Africa looked the other way.


IOL Sport

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