Although they believe the national team can bounce back and reach the play-offs, sweeping changes will be required for the Proteas to regain their best form, according to some of the country’s former cricket greats.
After falling in crushing defeats to hosts England and Bangladesh, the SA team were gearing up to face giants India in Southampton tomorrow in their third game of the Cricket World Cup. Former Proteas’ spin bowler Paul Harris felt the players could recover if they increased their intensity.
“They’ve put themselves under enormous pressure, considering they play India in their third game, but if they get the intensity right and start stringing some partnerships together with the bat, they can come back,” Harris said.
“Generally, when South Africans are down we tend to bounce back quite well and we play our best cricket under pressure, which we are under now.”
Although the squad had been dealt multiple injury blows, with key players being sidelined, former top-order batsman Jimmy Cook was confident of their chances. But he, too, admitted tomorrow’s match would be crucial.
“They’ve had injury problems, but that’s why you take a full squad. They need to make do with what they’ve got,” Cook said.
“I think they can still turn it around, but they will need to beat India. That game is a must-win now.”
Admitting he was disappointed with the results produced by the Proteas so far, retired spin bowler Pat Symcox felt long-term changes were required in order to lift the domestic standard of cricket. He believed a winning culture had to be injected into the game across the board for the national side to achieve their full potential.
“We can have a go at the team and the players, but they are probably the best we’ve got at the moment, and they’re only products of the system,” Symcox said.
“I have no confidence in the system, or the production line, any more and this can’t be turned around by one or two players.”
With the Proteas proving expensive with the ball in the early stages of the tournament, former fast bowler Fanie de Villiers insisted the fitness level of the players was below par and the coaches needed to be reassessed.
“We’ve got a system that can’t keep bowlers fit. They’ve got problems with their weight and their size,” he said.
“We need to make sure these guys are fit and strong and if the system isn’t good enough to keep them fit, then they must fire whoever is in charge of that.”
If they did not turn things around tomorrow, De Villiers believed the national team’s lengthy drought would continue, with the global title remaining elusive.
“There’s a helluva big problem with our bowling,” De Villiers said, “and we need to sort it out sooner, rather than later, or we’re probably going to endure the worst World Cup we’ve ever had.”