The four-day Sunfoil Series was particularly galling for the Titans, who went into the competition as the defending champions, but lost eight of their 10 matches and failed to win any. To make it even more traumatic, their defeats were by huge margins – one by an innings and 247 runs, three by 10 wickets, one by nine wickets and others by 161 runs and 393 runs. Six of their matches were all over in three days.
The root of their travails would appear to be that the reserve talent in the squad responded poorly to the challenge of stepping up and replacing the likes of Faf du Plessis, Jacques Rudolph, Albie Morkel, Farhaan Behardien, Marchant de Lange, Paul Harris and Morne Morkel, who for various reasons only played 15 Sunfoil Series matches between them.
“The four-day campaign was dreadful and there were a combination of reasons. But it’s fair to say that the youth didn’t come through, they just didn’t execute their skills, either batting or bowling.
“Sometimes youngsters come in and take to it straight away, for others it takes them a while. We were playing three or four youngsters at once, whereas in an ideal world you’d like to knit one or two at a time into the team. We’ve got to work really hard,” coach Matthew Maynard admitted.
The Titans were, of course, rocked by twin tragedies at the start of the summer, with Maynard losing his son, Tom, a Surrey cricketer who was considered one of the most promising in England, and long-time and much-loved CEO Elise Lombard then passing away in August.
But their followers were heartened by their start to the season, making the semi-finals of the Champions League and then reaching the Momentum One-Day Cup playoff.
It is fair to say that the franchise are baffled by how the season just totally unravelled from that point.
Jacques Faul is the new CEO of the Titans and he admits that a franchise will always be judged by the performance of the team.
“The team is the showcase of the franchise and the play on the field is what we sell, if you like. I’ve been impressed with Matt Maynard as a coach, but even he doesn’t seem to really know where it all went wrong. He has worked out what we need though, going forward, and this has been such a successful franchise so I don’t think it will be difficult to return to winning ways,” Faul said.
A late resurgence in the T20 Challenge could, of course, turn around the whole season, especially in terms of the financial rewards it provides a franchise.
And the increased financial resources means Maynard could be in the market for some new players, while yesterday’s men slip from the scene.
“We still need to strengthen the squad and we’ll look to do that,” Maynard said.
Faul, drawing from his experience of helping to build the high-flying bizhub Highveld Lions team, is frustrated that the Titans allowed players like Hardus Viljoen, Imran Tahir and Gulam Bodi to slip away.
“You need to hang on to your talent, we were losing matches to teams with guys who used to play for the Titans, and you need a good mix of old and young players. It took the Highveld Lions a while to build their team. We know our national players are not going to play, it would be naïve to rely on them. We have to win without them and we have to create more stars to win,” Faul said.
The Titans management would seem to want a top-order batsman, a paceman and perhaps an experienced spinner, Harris having retired, who specialises in four-day cricket.
Of course, the Titans will look a different team when the likes of Rudolph, Albie Morkel, Behardien and De Lange play regularly.
“What the senior players bring to the table is match-winning performances. But the positive from the season is that guys like Graeme van Buuren, Francois le Clus and JP de Villiers look to have the potential to succeed at that level. The talent is there,” Maynard said.
The pressure will now be on the team and coaching staff to ensure that talent makes the Titans way more competitive next season.