Heinz Schenk
3 minute read
18 Feb 2019
3:39 pm

Arrogant Proteas got their comeuppance at Kingsmead

Heinz Schenk

They've spat at the principles that made them the No 1 Test-playing nation previously.

Faf du Plessis of the Proteas and Ottis Gibson (Coach of the Proteas) during day 4 of the 1st Test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Kingsmead Stadium on February 16, 2019 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

If you’re merely disappointed with the Proteas’ shock loss to Sri Lanka in Durban at the weekend, that’s cool.

But I’m not.

I’m revelling in the schadenfreude of the whole fiasco (from a South African point of view).

The time has come to look past the romanticism of the result, that the islanders’ one-wicket win illustrated again that spirit counts for much and that the beleaguered Test format is far from dead.

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South African cricket needs to take stock of this result, not because one defeat is the end of the world, but because it can steadily mean the end of the Proteas as a powerhouse in the next few years.

Ottis Gibson and Faf du Plessis got their comeuppance at Kingsmead because they’ve become arrogant.

There’s no diplomatic way to say this anymore.

They’ve lost perspective.

They’ve spat at the principles that made the Proteas the No 1 Test-playing nation in the world under Mickey Arthur, Gary Kirsten and Russell Domingo.

South Africa are no longer the flag bearers of adaptability, the one team legions of observers praised for their ability to win series overseas or at least stay competitive.

They won series in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, England, West Indies and New Zealand.

Until 2015, they hadn’t lost a Test series in India since 2004.

Such exploits are no longer valued.

The Proteas are now merely preoccupied with bullying opponents on ready-made seamer-friendly surfaces because they don’t handle pace too well.

Proper batting rearguards have become increasingly scarce because the batters now philosophically accept that they’re now on a hiding to nothing and will not be granted a fair wicket in near future due to the team’s biggest strength being the bowlers.

Totals of 250 have become implicitly acceptable, even when Du Plessis says in public it’s not enough.

Our Test team is no longer being exposed to different conditions that gives one a better chance of success overseas.

The batsmen can’t fill their boots anymore.

The vaunted pace attack loses heart when the wickets aren’t falling regularly – just go and watch again how pitifully one-dimensional Dale Steyn and co were when bowling to the Sri Lankan tail once they were faced with a bit of resistance.

And the worst part of it all is that even though South Africa knew they needed an extra batsman and that the season to date had provided more than enough evidence that four frontline bowlers are enough, they went in with five at Kingsmead.

It’s difficult not to feel they did so because Du Plessis was convinced he’d win the toss in favourable conditions.

When he didn’t, the top order looked so spooked at Sri Lanka’s no-name brand attack they lost three wickets cheaply.

By the time Steyn and Kagiso Rabada were dishing up short of a length lollies to the rampant Kusal Perera and Du Plessis had EIGHT boundary riders with 80 runs still required, it was clear the Proteas were gatvol of Durban.

They have won only one Test there since 2008 and it’s an open secret that they really don’t enjoy coming to the city.

The apathetic public, admittedly, doesn’t help much.

Nonetheless, you give your all wherever you play.

I’m not sure some of the Proteas did.

More importantly though, they need to ditch their current Test cricket tactical template.

Some will argue it’s maximising one’s strengths, but all the Proteas are doing is following the crowd.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.


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