Cape Town - A creaking outfit … and all too often it showed, didn’t it?
Hindsight is an easy science: let’s not forget that the national selectors weren’t too heavily castigated when they announced South Africa’s squad for what has become a dreadfully ill-fated World Cup 2019 for them.
But it also became painfully more apparent as the tournament wore on - and it isn’t over yet, of course - that the now almost certainly dead-in-the-water Proteas laboured to an unusual extent (at least for them) as a broad athletic unit, if you like.
Their dynamism in that regard was impeded by a string of inconvenient injuries in the immediate lead-up and then into the event as well, while having several notably ageing customers in their ranks only added to a sense that they had fallen some way behind other countries in that regard.
Almost every aspect of their cricket in England so far has somehow seemed “slow”; behind the proverbial eight ball.
There will have to be a personnel clean-out after this latest major-tournament fiasco, some natural (we already know JP Duminy and Imran Tahir are quitting the 50-overs arena after the World Cup, and more may voluntarily follow) while several others might have to be enforced, with a view to a better assault on the elusive trophy in 2023.
While an essentially risky exercise given the uncertainties that also plague the domestic scene, here are six suggested figures - predominantly youthful - from outside the current 15-strong squad with potential to invigorate the ODI side in the short- to medium-term future.
Temba Bavuma (29)
Yes, Bavuma. Not exactly a spring chicken … and with lingering doubts about his ability to manufacture really big runs regularly at Test level.
But the little right-hander is also a routinely tough fighter - maybe the ODI side needs more of that quality? - who works the ball around resourcefully, is making strides as a finisher, and offers wonderfully spring-heeled fielding into the bargain; he’s so dangerous when lurking anywhere around the “circle”.
Several international pundits are bemused that he has had so few 50-overs chances for SA thus far (two) … especially when he has done everything that could be expected of him: a century on debut against Ireland and 48 against Bangladesh.
Another near-30-year-old who could be a “recall” beneficiary of the CWC failings of others is the Lions’ slightly enigmatic Reeza Hendricks, capable of truly crisp, classical stroke-play at his best.
Anrich Nortje (25)
Obvious one, this: the genuine tearaway from the Eastern Cape was an initial, commendably adventurous pick for the World Cup party.
But then disaster cruelly struck when he suffered a hand fracture at nets ahead of the tournament and was replaced by Chris Morris (ironically one of the very few SA success stories thus far).
Nortje is an out-and-out speedster who looked lethal in the early stages of the maiden Mzansi Super League and should soon enough pick up where he left off, to roar back into the frame as a Dale Steyn-like factor for the national cause …
Junior Dala (29)
Another who will be reasonably well into his early thirties by the time the next World Cup comes along, but that shouldn’t automatically be used against him if he continues his progress; he seems to have a trustworthy engine.
Lusaka-born Dala, who already has a handful of Proteas ODI/T20 caps with generally modest returns to this point, simply has to be involved in onward ODI selection matters given his stellar showing in the last Momentum One Day Cup for the Titans, when he was runaway leading wicket-taker with 27 at an eye-opening average of 16.59 (next was ever-wily, veteran big unit Rory Kleinveldt on 15 dismissals).
He has an unorthodox action, but that is increasingly an advantage in many respects in white-ball cricket: just look at India’s penetrative, sometimes venomous Jasprit Bumrah.
Bjorn Fortuin (24)
Maybe I just tuned in at opportune times, but virtually every time I saw the Lions-based left-arm spinner in televised white-ball action during the 2018/19 summer, he seemed to be tying batsmen down intelligently with his under-rated left-arm spin.
More than willing to open the attack from one end if necessary, the Paarl-born competitor varies his pace and flight encouragingly.
While possibly still needing to enhance any “mystery” factor, he might prove a decent foil going forward to Tabraiz Shamsi in matches where two frontline spinners are required, though following through on his strides last season will be necessary for his national selection claims in 2019/20. It would be great to see him get some SA ‘A’ productiveness beneath the belt first.
Also appealing about Fortuin is that he can do a good deal more than hold a bat down the order: he has a first-class best, for example, of 194 and average of almost 35 - South Africa do need better depth in the tail.
Kyle Verreynne (22)
For the foreseeable future, Quinton de Kock should remain very much the frontline wicketkeeper/batsman. (At 26, two further World Cups are feasibly within his sights.)
But if the wise men want to start gently grooming a successor in that area, they could do worse than identify Cobras-based former Wynberg Boys High pupil Verreynne as that figure.
Besides, rotation of assets will have to remain very much on the table at a time when the global calendar only expands and fatigue (with associated, heightened injury risks) will afflict in-demand players from time to time.
Verreynne smacks the ball a long way when the mood grabs him, and averaged a shade under 65 with the blade in last season’s Momentum One Day Cup.
The former SA U19 star’s first-class average is also only just beneath 50, suggesting Test possibilities up the line as well.
Pushing Verreynne hard, probably, or even leapfrogging him in the pecking order will be the Warriors’ exciting rookie Sinethemba Qeshile, although he tailed off rather violently last summer.
Lutho Sipamla (21)
Another who should help ensure continued, satisfying depth to the country’s famed “fast-bowling factory”.
Sipamla is highly regarded by retired Proteas doyen AB de Villiers, who captained him in the Mzansi Super League for Tshwane Spartans.
Only very recently turned 21, the raw figure from Port Elizabeth earned some exposure to the international T20 landscape at the back end of last season, and didn’t look out of depth despite the relative limitations of the Pakistani and Sri Lankan tourists.
He is capable of languidly generating quite disconcerting pace, gets lift off an advanced length and his intensity levels should only improve with the benefit of experience: an ODI try-out shouldn’t be too far away.
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