In the wake of the Women’s World T20 last year, Cricket South Africa needed to be decisive about the national team.
It had been a poor tournament from a side that had been on an upward curve, although there was a sense that too many players were still living off the performances of that run to the semi-finals of the 50-over World Cup in 2017.
Two group matches were won in the West Indies last November, but those wins against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were expected.
It was the losses to the hosts and England, and especially the way those games were lost, that demanded reflection and decisive action.
The T20s and ODIs against Sri Lanka are the Proteas’ first matches since that World T20, and in terms of selection, selection panel chief Clinton du Preez has certainly not pulled any punches.
Of Suné Luus’ initial absence, he said she’d produced “disappointing performances”.
Coach Hilton Moreeng wanted to see the same kind of performances he’d seen from those players who were contracted to lucrative T20 leagues in England and Australia produced in the green and gold.
Lizelle Lee was dropped for not adhering to fitness standards.
It was, said all-rounder Marizanne Kapp this week, the kick up the backside the players needed.
It was a high-risk approach by the selectors, picking seven players in the squad who’d played less than 10 T20 Internationals.
But it was also the right time to try something new, to give some of the talent at provincial level a taste of the international scene.
The T20 series can be used for experimenting, a bit like the men have done in the last 12 months as Ottis Gibson and Faf du Plessis have tested personnel and combinations with the World Cup in mind.
Kapp, a star on the world stage who’s been apart of victorious franchise sides in both the T20 Super League in England and the Big Bash in Australia, acknowledged that some of the younger players had been shocked by the demands of the international game compared to the provincial one.
But, as the series drew to a conclusion in Centurion on Wednesday, there were already signs that some had figured out how to go about succeeding.
Tazmin Brits played with the kind of aggression for which she is known in the domestic game and Lara Goodall played with more freedom than in any other match she’s played for the country.
And for Luus, who got a call-up after Chloe Tryon got injured, there’s been some redemption, with a fine bowling effort in the second match at the Wanderers and a lively knock yesterday to put the finishing touches to the SA innings.
Nadine de Klerk’s composure towards the end at the Wanderers was another tick for the selectors.
And what will all this do for the established players in the side?
Kapp again talked of the need for players like herself, Mignon du Preez, Tryon, Shabnim Ismail and Lee to take more responsibility for their performances, and offer skipper Dané van Niekerk support on a more consistent basis.
There is an important three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka next week, which the Proteas simply have to win as they seek direct qualification for the 50-over World Cup in 2021.
The selectors have shown they are willing to make decisive moves, so now the onus is on the players to show similar ruthlessness.
They can’t keep playing off the memories of 2017.@shockerhess