Graeme Smiths era has come to an end, not on the high he would have hoped for, and not on the high he probably deserves.
Graeme Smiths era has come to an end, not on the high he would have hoped for, and not on the high he probably deserves.

Where to now for the Proteas?

By HD Ackerman Time of article published Mar 31, 2011

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Almost a week has passed since the Proteas’ untimely exit from the World Cup. I am grateful for that week as it has given me the time to read almost every article written as well as listen to all the “expert” opinion on why South Africa yet again disappointed in this event.

“What a disaster.” “What a tragedy.” These are two statements I have heard often. The only trouble is, I associate tragedy and disaster with what happened in Japan and Christchurch, not with a cricket match.

“Pathetic” and “gutless” are words to describe the people that commit the heinous crimes that plague our country every day, not a team who tried their best. My favourite is “We were great against India,” followed by, “They choked.” Talk about associating oneself only when it suits.

We are an unforgiving public with extremely high expectations and it would not surprise me that if Bafana Bafana lost to Spain we would crucify them.

However the Proteas are not Bafana Bafana and New Zealand do not have the genius of a Xavi or Iniesta, so I suppose we have a little bit of an excuse for being upset.

Throughout the tournament the Protea bowlers had been fantastic. In the quarter-final they did their jobs again. 220 should have been chased down. In fact “chased” sounds rushed; it should have been strolled down. The pitch had a little uneven bounce, but it certainly was not a minefield. So why didn’t we win?

The answer has been given to us by the players themselves: no excuses have been given. They batted badly and that is that!

Kallis knows that chasing a total like that was tailor made for him. Duminy understands that trying to hit an off spinner square of the wicket when he is bowling around the wicket is not a good option, and Du Plessis and De Villiers know the old cliché that one run is not worth a run out.

So I’m not going to rub their noses in it because they don’t deserve that. They are hurting enough as it is. They don’t need some guy who never played in a World Cup to judge them.

Did we take the right team? Frankly, it shouldn’t have mattered because the 11 that played should have been good enough to win it.

The real question is, where to now? Do the selectors build for four years, or do they continue to pick the best team for now? It’s a tricky one, because they will want to maintain a high standard and try to regain the number one ODI ranking as well as making sure that in four years’ time they will have an experienced unit going to the next World Cup.

Former coach Corrie van Zyl said that this team is the one to take forward, but I can’t see players in their 30’s such as Kallis, Smith, Tahir and Pieterson being around then.

I believe Andrew Hudson and his selection panel are going to have a clean out and try and move forward. I think they will be aided by Jacques Kallis announcing his retirement from one-day cricket. I hope he will be afforded that grace because he sure has earned it.

The next World Cup won’t be on the sub-continent so we won’t need three spinners, and I believe that Graeme Smith would admit that with him not being captain his position is seriously under threat because of his lack of runs. The problem is: Who do they replace these players with?

Kallis is a once in a lifetime player, almost impossible to replace.

As for everybody else, South Africa has never had a problem finding talent, and I don’t think we ever will. We are a sport mad nation. Sometimes it divides us, but on most occasions it unites us.

Graeme Smith’s era has come to an end, not on the high he would have hoped for, and not on the high he probably deserves. But the Proteas will rebuild and we will continue to support them, even if it is tough at times. And one day, yes one day, South Africa will win the World Cup.

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