Johannesburg — The Proteas Men’s ODI team are in a mess. That much, naturally, can be ascertained from their position in the ICC World Cup Super League.
But it goes beyond their 11th place, with only Zimbabwe and the Netherlands, below them.
Things, everyone agrees, must change. And the man tasked with that huge undertaking is new white-ball coach Rob Walter. The only problem is that Walter is still “11 hours ahead” in New Zealand where he is wrapping up his previous assignment.
World champions England are not going to wait for Walter’s arrival though. Most of their players, including captain Jos Buttler, have been in the country for the past month assimilating to conditions whilst plying their trade for the various teams in the Betway SA20, while others like Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Dawid Malan have flown in from the UAE for the three-match ODI series that gets underway in Bloemfontein
It has therefore been left to Shukri Conrad to steer the ship in the interim. Conrad was announced last week as the new Proteas Test coach, but for the next seven days it will be his responsibility to formulate a plan that will hopefully keep the most dominant global force in white-ball cricket at bay.
“Rob and I have a fabulous relationship. We share similar ideals on the game,” Conrad told reporters in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
“We are in conversation every day in terms of where the team is at, what we need to be looking out for, but I am obviously on the ground here and he is 11 hours ahead of me.
“I have been entrusted to look after selection, I have been entrusted to look after matters, as in this is my series, but obviously in constant conversation with Rob. There is lots of synergy between Rob and I and lots of sharing of ideas.”
Now that everyone knows exactly where the buck stops this week, how will Conrad approach a series that the Proteas simply have to win if they are to avoid the embarrassment of a World Cup qualifying series in Zimbabwe?
“Both mine and Rob’s philosophy is quite simple. We really want to invest all our energies into the process of playing really good cricket. We want out of this week for guys to identify when a key moment is, and what option they can utilise, and hopefully that is an aggressive option, and that goes a long way in ensuring us winning the game,” Conrad said.
“We are certainly not going to convey the message that we have to win. I think everybody is well aware of that. The focus is on playing really good cricket. We know England are a top one day side. They are world champions in both formats. And if you can do that against the top side in the world it will go a long way in setting us up for the rest of Rob’s tenure as the white-ball coach.
“We are obviously aware of it, and respectful of that. But I would still like to see us play as a top cricketing side as well. Our position in the World Series doesn’t necessarily suggest that, but I would still like us to have the belief that team’s play a certain way and we have to come out on Friday night and deliver that. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I want to be challenged against the best sides in the world because that gives you a pretty good idea of where we are as a side.”
The first ODI gets underway at Bloemfontein on Friday at 1pm, followed by the second match at the same venue on Sunday, before moving to Kimberley next Wednesday.