Selection decision meant Proteas shot themselves in the foot before #CricketWorldCup

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Jun 6, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG – Somewhere between the government’s erratic economic ‘planning’ and the Proteas eventual admission about Dale Steyn’s inability to the play in the World Cup, yesterday was one of those crappy days, where staying in bed really was the best option.

The curtain being drawn on Steyn’s World Cup is of course nowhere near as calamitous for the country as the chaos at Luthuli House, but in terms of management, both - as in Steyn’s case, and currently as far as the economy is concerned - been handled extremely poorly.

To stick with cricket; the Steyn situation represents a case of the Proteas shooting themselves in the foot before they’d even stepped on the plane to England. Nevermind, Ben Stokes, Virat Kohli, David Warner, Chris Gayle, Babar Azam, or a high pressure World Cup knockout game, the Proteas handicapped themselves, before they left these shores.

“We are not thinking just about the first week, our strategy revolves around all six weeks. If he is not able to play a part in the first week then hopefully he plays a part in the latter stages of the tournament,” the national side’s coach, Ottis Gibson said the day before the team’s departure.

Faf du Plessis (right) chats to coach Ottis Gibson after their loss to Sri Lanka. Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Essentially that meant the Proteas were creating a barrier for themselves for at least a third of their round-robin matches.

So, while their three opponents in the first week were picking from 15 players, the Proteas would be picking from 14 and hoping there would be no injuries. Well that latter part didn’t happen - with Lungi Ngidi going down after bowling just four overs against Bangladesh. The Proteas were asking for trouble, and trouble answered.

It was simply wrong to take Steyn in that group when he wasn’t close to being fit. Faf du Plessis described Steyn as being at 60 percent when he boarded the plane, and that is nowhere near being ready, not when the journey is to the World Cup.

Between Gibson, Du Plessis, the team’s management and the selectors, there needs to be some form of admonishment from CSA, although that organisation has also got many other fires it needs to put out.

South Africa has known for a year that it faced playing three games in a week to start the tournament and that should have necessitated greater care being taken with selection of injured players.

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This is not criticism born from hindsight either. Du Plessis himself stated on a number of occasions that those three fast bowlers were central to the Proteas’ World Cup strategy and that fitness was key.

Steyn in the last two and half years and Ngidi since he burst onto the scene have been especially susceptible to breaking down, so the risks were high anyway. Picking one of them for a World Cup while he wasn’t fit was increasing that risk far too much. It was just plain stupid.

This is arguably South Africa’s worst fielding unit at a World Cup, and that is worrying. That England v Pakistan game showed the importance of fielding at this year’s tournament. England were below the standards they maintained in the tournament opener and were made to pay. South Africa were lax in that department in their first two matches.

It won’t be stretching it to say the best fielding team will win this tournament, because the margins between all the participants appears to be so small.



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