COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Four years ago the final day at the SSC was the backdrop of tension, relief and finally tears of joy for the Proteas. On Monday, shortly after lunchtime on the fourth day, it was one of grave disappointment.
Perhaps the only Proteas that deserved a little smile of self-satisfaction at the end-of-series presentation ceremony was maiden centurion Theunis de Bruyn and 12-wicket man Keshav Maharaj. But for the rest it was a sense of disillusionment at having been whitewashed by a side that is not only four places below the Proteas on the ICC ladder, but also the realisation that their conquerors are actually a team beset with off-field issues.
Sri Lanka are currently without their captain, coach and manager after the ICC imposed the maximum sanction upon the trio for their role in “bringing the game into disrepute” during the preceding series in the West Indies. To exacerbate matters, there are two players, including current opening batsman Danushka Gunathilaka who struck twin half-centuries here in this final Test, that have suspensions hanging over their heads due to ill-discipline.
That’s as close to chaos as you can get with lesser teams probably not even wanting to get out of bed, let alone whip the World’s No 2 side by 278 runs and 199 runs respectively in the two Tests played. So, the burning questions are: Where does that leave the Proteas, and where to from here?
After the home summer triumphs over World No 1 India and arch-rivals Australia, the South African camp was filled with optimism. Young players were beginning to make their mark and the changing of the coaching guard from Russell Domingo to Ottis Gibson seemed to be a smooth transition. But after suffocating under a web of spin for the past fortnight here in Sri Lanka, there are now calls for immediate change, especially if social media is to be regarded as the voice of reason.