Bengaluru, June 24: South Africa lost to Pakistan by 49 runs in their must-win fixture at Lord's on Sunday (June 23), which brought an early end to their semifinal hopes in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
The Proteas had a poor start to their campaign with three consecutive losses to England, Bangladesh and India and just when the fans were expecting them to do better in the remaining six games, there was no change in their fortunes.
The Proteas could manage to beat only Afghanistan in seven games that they played; lost five while one match was washed out.
The team that went to England to represent South Africa was a mediocre one by all means. Even though this side has won some series over the last many months, none of them were against big teams. South Africa got a wake up call last year when they lost 1-5 to India in the bilateral series at home, but yet did not do enough to get back to shape before the World Cup began.
There were quite a few factors for SA's poor show at the 2019 World Cup, which was perhaps the first-ever edition for which the Proteas were not considered as one of the favourites. Here are five reasons why they failed miserably:
The South African side paid dearly for picking an injured Dale Steyn. Even though the veteran pacer made an impressive comeback to international cricket from an injury stint, the fact that he could not play a single match in the World Cup and that was a deadly blow to Du Plessis's Plan 'A'. Being a pacer-reliant force, South Africa had depended on the Steyn-Kagiso Rabada-Lungi Ngidi trio to do it for them but with one leg of the trio gone, their plans were in doldrums. Ngidi also had his share of injury problems. Beuran Hendricks was roped in as Steyn's replacement but he was played in only one game and he did not get any wicket.
SA picked a team comprising a blend oy youth and experiene, but when it was required, big names failed to deliver. Opener Hashim Amla was picked in the side despite having a poor touch only because of his huge experience. But he could not make much headline apart from completing 8,000 runs in ODIs as the second-fastest batsman. Amla could manage just one fifty and could not rise to the occasion against Pakistan when it mattered the most. Apart from him, the likes of JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock and David Miller also failed to play a comprehensive role. However, the form or lack of it of Rabada was the most worrying factor for them. This WC was being seen as battle for supremacy between India's Jasprit Bumrah and Rabada. But with just six wickets so far and no influence on games whatsoever, Rabada failed to impress just months after having a productive IPL.
If the bowlers were not up to mark for South Africa in this World Cup, so were their batters and fielders. None of the South African batsmen could score a hundred in this World Cup and the flash-in-the pan 50s were never going to be enough especially after they kept on conceding 300-plus scores routinely. The only batsman who gave some hope was the captain Du Plessis while Rassie Van der Dussen still has miles to go before becoming another AB de Villiers. In fielding, too, SA looked a pale shadow of their past and kept on wasting opportunities to let the opponents off the hook and lose games.
Even though he was not part of the South African squad, De Villiers certainly had his impact on the team's performance, negatively. The 35-year-old dashing batsman still had a few years of cricket left in him on international stage. His decision to quit international cricket last year still sounds mysterious and it was even more shocking to see reports of him having tried to return to the World Cup squad barely hours before it was announced. De Villiers shouldn't have quit if he wanted to play the WC, but the controversy only distracted SA's focus on the World Cup.
South African cricket has certainly been hurt by the Kolpak deal episode. The brain drain has left the country poorer in cricket and the authorities should have handled this better. While England started off their preparations for this World Cup soon after the 2015 nightmare ended, SA's priorities lacked focus over the last four years. Eventually, they scrambled up a team to play the WC. But, the country now faces a deeper question of replacing those individuals from the current team who will exit the scene soon. That's a huge challenge to meet when it comes to kicking off early preparations for the 2023 World Cup.