Proteas reflect on World Cup journey as they look forward to 2027

PROTEAS bowler Keshav Maharaj celebrates taking a wicket during the ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup in USA. | AFP

PROTEAS bowler Keshav Maharaj celebrates taking a wicket during the ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup in USA. | AFP

Published Jul 7, 2024


THE PROTEAS went into the Twenty20 World Cup with realistic targets and bolstering one of the best teams in the tournament, there was always a feeling that if things went right, it was a tournament they could bring home.

Of course, they will always have to carry their history into every tournament until they finally cross the line and win their maiden world title. Never has any South African male team made any World Cup final, and when Reeza Hendricks punched the ball down the ground, emphatically knocking Afghanistan out to reach their first final, the dream was alive.

The dream was well within reach with only five overs left needing only 30 runs to win with six wickets left, but India used their experience in big stages and won the key moments and the hunt continues for the Proteas.

Keshav Maharaj was part of the team that lost the semi-final against Australia in the 2023 One Day International World Cup, and he believes South Africa is headed in the right direction despite falling short once again.

“The expression showed it all, from the tears, to the dropped heads, but having said that I’m very optimistic about what the future has in store, it does pain to come so close, it does take a lot out of you considering for eight weeks we gave it out everything,” said Maharaj.

“There is a restored and renewed belief from what we have had before, I think from the positives we take to make the final is the step in the right direction, the hurt will fuel people in the right direction.

“Sometimes you have to regroup and reassess, it’s easy to sit here in hindsight, but in that moment you pick a way to go, most often it works, sometimes it doesn’t. You have to respect that sort of space, fair play, they identified something in the game and they slowed it down, but I think it’s about regrouping and re-starting again.”

The Proteas fought through their way to the final with a lot of close wins that could have easily gone the other way.

“It doesn’t have to look pretty, it just has to be effective, at the end of the day you are not judged by how you look, it’s about how it comes out. There is no guarantee when it comes to execution that you are going to get the results. The World Cup is results orientated because if you do not get the results you will be on a flight back home,” said Maharaj.

“We are just worried about getting the job done, we are not worried about whether it looks good or not, we do understand that the small moments build the character in the team, and that is the one thing that stood out this year in the World Cup to win moments we were dead and buried from.”

Rob Walter’s tenure has had a semi-final loss, and became the first coach to take the Proteas to a final all within a year, and Maharaj believes that despite the loss there is room for better things to come with him at the helm.

“One of the things he speaks about is world-class preparation, it has been a stand out for the last two seasons since he’s taken over as coach. He’s quite detailed about what he wants to do, so that has been a blessing in disguise, there is a desire to get better and better.”