CAPE TOWN - Proteas coach Mark Boucher has admitted that the violent protests and looting back home last week in South Africa has mentally affected his team in Ireland.
The Proteas managed to draw the three-match series with Ireland after an emphatic 70-run win on Friday, but it was clear the players' thoughts were elsewhere midweek when they lost to the hosts for the first time in history.
The second ODI, which was played on Tuesday, was during the heart of the riots that engulfed large parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Boucher stated there were players in the squad whose families were personally affected by the unrest back home.
"If we're honest, we weren't there the other day. Our awareness was down, and our intensity was down," said Boucher.
"What's going on back home, to say it's not affecting us is not true. I think it's affecting every South African.
"We're just giving space for everyone to get their emotions out and let them talk about what's going on back home.
"Keeping them in and then having to be locked down in your room can be quite tough, especially if you are personally affected, and I know there have been a couple of guys in our squad who have been. These are things that we didn't know we were going to have to deal with, and we're just going along with what we feel is going to be best for the players and just try to be there for the guys who are feeling quite emotionally drained by what's going on."
Furthermore, the Proteas have travelled to Ireland directly from the Caribbean where they are once again residing in a bio-bubble environment due to Covid-19.
The restrictions have taken a toll on the players, with former captain Quinton de Kock admitting previously that he needed a break ahead of the trip to the West Indies. De Kock has since returned mentally refreshed and coincidentally rediscovered the form that has made him one of the most feared batsmen in world cricket.
He emphasized his class with a stroke-filled 120 on Friday that formed part of a 225-run opening partnership with Man of the Series Janneman Malan, with the latter striking a career-best 177 not out.
It certainly is a tough task for Boucher and his management team to ensure the entire squad is in a healthy mental space, although the loosening of some restrictions in Ireland has helped a bit.
"It's tough. It's even tougher in bubbles, and one of the things we'd like to do is get the guys out a bit," Boucher said.
⛔️ RESULT | #PROTEAS WIN BY 70 RUNS— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) July 16, 2021
Tabraiz Shamsi and Andile Phehlukwayo grabbed 3-wickets each as the bowlers backed up a superb batting display to ensure the #Proteas claimed victory in the 3rd ODI against @cricketireland to share the series 1-1#IREvSA #ThatsOurGame pic.twitter.com/YT3fpM2ag8
"We have found a little space on the beach where the guys can go for a walk, albeit at 8pm, and there is a golf course next to us where we can play with certain restrictions.
"Coming off a good win against West Indies, usually you get a bit of time to take that in and get away for a week or so. We didn't have that, and we had to pack and fly for basically two days and then back into another bubble.
"There was a lot of adrenaline and energy that went into the chats in the corridors and rooms so that probably did contribute to us being very low on energy (in the second game)."
The Proteas switch formats next week with the three-match T20I series starting on Monday in preparation for the ICC T20 World Cup in October.