This year’s dreary efforts, in a tournament that has caused heartache and anger since South Africa first played in one 27 years ago, are the result of a collective failure in South African cricket.
It started with the administrators at Cricket South Africa, was worsened by the selectors, and became entwined in a confused mess of a strategy by captain Faf du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson.
Talk of there being an inquiry into this failure is somewhat ironic. How will CSA investigate itself? That organisation has lurched from one disaster to another in the last few years, and is trying to save itself from a financial meltdown over forecast losses of at least R654 million.
Despite reports from independent advisory panels, CSA forged ahead with a restructuring of the local game that had no input from the country’s players. Now the federation has been forced into court, and in such a process the administrative shortcomings will be highlighted. Many will point to that being good for how cricket is run in this country. The establishment of a T20 league has been shambolic. It left CSA in this financial hole, making the organisation desperate for a broadcast deal to assist in alleviating some of that pressure.
A significant portion of that broadcast deal relates to Cricket SA’s primary asset - the men’s national team. That asset has been damaged this year, with a home Test series loss to Sri Lanka and this hapless World Cup campaign, making it an unattractive entity for a broadcaster.
When Gibson and Du Plessis cast the selection net wide in trying to fill spots in a 15-man World Cup roster, they pleaded for patience from the South African public. A series against India at home was sacrificed as players were given opportunities to state their case. In hindsight it was an error to hand Aiden Markram the captaincy during that series for it put his own development as an international one-day player back by at least a year, while AB de Villiers’ retirement was untimely.
Personnel and strategies changed over the course of the year leading up to the team’s departure for England. Heinrich Klaasen played himself in and then out of the squad. Reeza Hendricks looked like he might challenge strongly, but that petered out. Chris Morris was never really trusted, reducing an initial plan about starting with three seam bowling all-rounders, to just one, Andile Phehlukwayo.
JP Duminy appeared to have revitalised his career in Sri Lanka last year, while Rassie van der Dussen made himself impossible to ignore by transferring two years of consistency at domestic level to the international scene. Hashim Amla contributed sporadically, but no one really arrived to push him out. David Miller was also inconsistent. And the selectors made a huge error in selecting an injured Dale Steyn for the World Cup.