CSA scratched where it didn’t itch … and now the Baby Proteas are bleeding
The national Under-19 team's latest misadventure at a World Cup raises serious questions.
Jaco van der Merwe.
Jaco van der Merwe.
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In English they say if it “ain’t broke don’t fix it”, but I prefer the Afrikaans version: Moenie krap waar dit nie jeuk nie (Don’t scratch where it doesn’t itch).
I think involving senses makes this expression a bit more emotional.
I have raised this particular subject before, but it’s inevitable again in the light of history repeating itself at the recent Under-19 Cricket World Cup.
In 2014 Ray Jennings coached the national Under-19s to the title, but in the aftermath of that success the junior structures were ironically revamped.
Jennings got the boot and in came Lawrence Mahatlane, a coach who earned his credentials at provincial level in Gauteng.
In the three subsequent World Cup tournaments he has coached, his side finished 11th in 2016, fifth in 2018 and eighth this year.
Their most recent display is probably the most disappointing, seeing that we hosted the tournament for the first time in 22 years.
They got bamboozled by Afghanistan’s spin in their opener, were mesmerised by the Bangladeshi spinners in the quarterfinals and lost to a mediocre West Indies outfit in the seventh place play-off.
In a perfect world, hosting the tournament should have been Mahatlane’s crowning moment, drawing on his years of experience to fortify the team in their own conditions.
But they had little hope from the outset if their embarrassing 7-0 whitewash in the one-day series at home to Pakistan last year or their one win in four matches in a quadrangular series on the eve of the World Cup was anything to go by.
Jennings also didn’t have the best of starts to his term when his team lost the Plate semifinals to Nepal at the 2006 World Cup, but he made up for this.
His charges finished runners-up in 2008, fifth in 2010 and third in 2012 before his finest moment in 2014.
Like in the case of every team, age group or not, a coach can only do so much with what he’s got and there could be a case of a few average batches at Mahatlane’s disposal.
After all, Jennings did have Kagiso Rabada and Aiden Markram in 2014.
But being substandard against spin bowling, not reaching the quarterfinals in two out of three attempts, being whitewashed in your backyard and losing to Zimbabwe on the eve of this year’s tournament isn’t on.
That’s the problem with scratching places where you don’t itch.
You end up bleeding.
Jaco van der Merwe is The Citizen’s Head of Sport.
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