With the Proteas in the midst of transition, and a difficult one at that, every match the team plays has meaning, more so when times are tough.
This current transition with national mens team is happening at a time when Cricket South Africa itself is attempting to implement a new structure around the team, with key roles in that revised structure being held on a temporary basis at the moment.
The major position is that of Director of Cricket, a broad, all-encompassing job, that will see the occupant create strategies to improve standards of play throughout the South African system from the junior levels up to and including international level.
They will also look at a style of play, particularly as it pertains to the next World Cup, with CSA desperate to rid the country’s national team of that particular hoodoo.
CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe, the central figure in the creation of this new structure and the person ultimately responsible for appointing the Director of Cricket, is on record stating he wants the position filled by the end of this month.
If it could be done earlier that would massively helpful, but it certainly can’t be delayed beyond that date. Critical decisions about the short and long-term need to be made, include another crucial appointment - the Proteas men’s side’s Team Director.
Those appointments should provide some kind of vision for the future but also much needed stability around the players, whose confidence in the wake of the Test series with India being lost in the second match, must be at a low ebb.
Faf du Plessis called on the players to look within.
“A series in India is tough but it’s a real character test and only you can find the answers for yourself,” said the South Africa captain.
And that really is all he can ask for. While Cricket SA and Moroe work to get the right people in the right positions, the players have to figure out for themselves what has gone wrong and how to fix it.
Unlike four years ago, when some wretched pitches provided an easy excuse when India won a four-Test series 3-0, in the two matches in the current series, the pitches have actually played well.
Du Plessis has praised the preparation of the surfaces in both Visakhapatnam and Pune. In fact, the latter surface was akin to what you might expect to find on the Highveld and certainly provided groundsmen in this country with an example of what kind of surfaces need to be prepared.
Contrast Pune’s pitch with the one used in the Four-Day Franchise Challenge match in Potchefstroom last week between the Highveld Lions and Cape Cobras, where the match lasted two days.
South Africa fought hard and stayed in touch with India for four days in the first Test. Even their last-day crumbling on a disintegrating wicket which offered the spinners assistance, was understandable. They also continued to show fight.
However, in Pune, they capitulated after day two and Du Plessis’ bitter disappointment was evident in how he described the lack of fight.
Their captain’s words should serve as motivation for the players. They were not good enough and although the series can’t be won any longer, their own long-term futures are under scrutiny.
Meanwhile, Moroe yesterday called on South African fans to be patient with the Proteas.
“It was always going to be a difficult challenge taking on the top team in the world - certainly under their own conditions - in India at a time when we have introduced a new team structure,” he said in a statement.
“In the past two years we have had to bid farewell to some of the great names of international cricket such as AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, who between them played nearly 450 Test matches for the Proteas. You don’t replace that kind of experience overnight and we need to give a new generation time to settle.
“These things take time and I am confident that we will already see improvement in our next Test series when England are our visitors during the festive season.”