Proteas: Plenty of questions, not enough answers

2019-02-25 12:10
Hashim Amla (Gallo Images)
Hashim Amla (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Outplayed by a side that simply wanted it more, South Africa were embarrassed on their home soil as Sri Lanka secured a place in the game's future folklore. 

The stunned looks on faces and the obligatory, cliched congratulations that followed from within the Proteas camp were drenched in disbelief.

It is a result that severely dents skipper Faf du Plessis's long-term goal of getting back to No 1 in the Test rankings, and with the next Test assignment a tour to India in October, the Proteas could very well find themselves slipping in the wrong direction on that ICC ladder. 

It will go down as one of South Africa's worst ever performances in a home Test series and, suddenly, there is a lot to think about.

There are major concerns over the top order where veteran Hashim Amla find himself at the centre of the conversation.   

One of the great Test batsmen of this generation, Amla is not covering himself in glory in the twilight of his career. 

A Test average that was, not so long ago, healthily above 50 is now hovering at 46.64 - not numbers befitting a legend of the game. 

Amla's future in the format is blurred, while he has also been left out of the squad for the first three ODIs against Sri Lanka starting on Sunday. 

It may be a simple case of letting Amla put his feet up for a few days, but the decision to open with Quinton de Kock and Reeza Hendricks in the final ODI series before the World Cup raises eyebrows.

Are the selectors starting to think about a World Cup line-up that doesn't include Amla, just in case it comes to that?

Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma, meanwhile, have also copped their fair share of criticism after the Test series, while in the bowling department the injured Vernon Philander and the ageing Dale Steyn will not be around forever. 

Post-2019 has long been identified as a changing-the-guard moment in South African cricket, but after the Sri Lanka series there is now even more uncertainty. 

Has the time come for Amla to step away for somebody like Zubayr Hamza? Do the Proteas need to look at the possibility of a fresh face at the top of their order in the form of Pieter Malan? Should Steyn and Philander make way for names like Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje and Lutho Sipamla

These are all pertinent questions when it comes to the make-up of the Test side, but the brains trust does at least have six months to figure all of that out. 

More urgently, they must answer the questions that hover over the ODI side and a World Cup charge that is becoming increasingly difficult to buy into. 

Perhaps the most glaring omission from the squad for the first three ODIs against the Lankans is JP Duminy

The 34-year-old, considered a key member of the World Cup side with his experience and ability to bat and bowl counting hugely in his favour, has not played cricket since October last year. 

His shoulder injury was expected to have healed by now and this series was to be his much-needed platform for game time, but the fact that he is still not ready sounds serious alarm bells for the Proteas. 

When it comes to the allrounders, Wiaan Mulder, Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo are all included against Sri Lanka, but it is still not clear who the frontrunner is for England. 

Then, in the bowling department, the Proteas have included the uncapped Nortje for the first time. 

While the promise of the 25-year-old speedster cannot be questioned, having a look at him this late into a World Cup build-up creates the potential for even more instability.

What happened to Beuran Hendricks?

Are the Proteas now leaning towards taking all of Steyn, Rabada, Ngidi and Nortje as their pace options in England? 

By now, and by their own admission, the Proteas should be fielding their strongest possible side and the one they had decided to take to the World Cup. 

Instead, with just five matches to go until their tournament opener against England on May 30, they are still experimenting. 

That was never the plan, and it does not give off a feeling of preparedness.

In fact, predicting the make-up of the World Cup squad and the starting XI was an easier task a few weeks ago than it is now, and that is not a place you want to be in with such little cricket remaining before a tournament that means everything to South Africa. 

The time has come to make some big decisions. 

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...          

Read more on:    proteas  |  2019 world cup  |  hashim amla  |  cricket


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