Bengaluru, June 2: Ever since they had made a magnificent World Cup debut in 1992 and entered the semifinals where they were unjustly beaten, South Africa have always remained among the top favoruites at the quadrennial extravaganza.
In the 1996 and 1999 tournaments, the then captain Hansie Cronje was thought to be one who would make history, but his fortune was restricted by the West Indies and Australia, respectively.
In 2003, under Shaun Pollock, South Africa were one of the hosts and hence were dubbed the favourites to register their maiden title victory, but they flattered to deceive once again, this time getting the calculations wrong.
In 2007, 2011 and 2015, too, the Proteas were among the favourites but they could not turn the potential into the reality.
In 2019, for the first time, nobody is talking about South Africa as favourites. And especially after their two consecutive defeats early in the tournament, Faf du Plessis's men have slumped further in the list of favourites with the captain himself conceding that the job to reach the semifinals will not get easier from here on.
South Africa failed to chase the targets either against England (311 for eight) and Bangladesh (330 for six) although they had a better show against the Asians with 309 for eight batting second. It's the first-time ever in their history that SA have lost two consecutive games at the beginning of a World Cup.
The current Proteas side no doubt has some exciting bowling talents like Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi but its batting is weak. It is far too dependent on two three players and with the likes of Hashim Amla past their primes, any big target is going to prove strenuous for the batting line-up. They have not been able to fill the big void created by the of class players like Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers in the middle order.
In the bowling, Morne Morkel's retirement and Dale Steyn's injury have exposed South Africa's inexperienced attack. Imran Tahir has brought all his experience into play, but the pace bowling attack needs to be in a much better shape, despite the talent. South Africa will be ruing Steyn's sustaining injury during the Indian Premier League as it has made him miss two crucial games in what is likely to be his final World Cup.
South Africa's fortune seems to be going Zimbabwe's way as the Kolpak deal has seen a serious talent drain from the country. A number of players (Kyle Abbott, Rilee Rossouw, David Wiese) who could have been of help for the national team have left the country by opting for the Kolpak deal, not just for economic security, but also because of 'quota system' prevailing in SA. The white players are finding it less secure in South Africa with each passing day and the resulting talent drain has harmed the country's performance, as we have seen in the first week of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.