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Ken Borland

After 5 months on the road, Proteas finally get a couple of months playing at home

Posted on December 31, 2021 by Ken

After five months on the road, travelling from the Caribbean to Ireland, the subcontinent and then to Arabia, the Proteas can finally look forward to playing some cricket at home for the next couple of months.

They might not have won the T20 World Cup or even made the semi-finals, but it has been quite a while since there has been so much positivity around the performance of the team.

As ever in sport, patience has been rewarded and, as consistency in selection has led to a settled squad, so the performances have been getting better and better.

Few would argue that rebuilding the Proteas into a force on the international stage was an onerous task given how low fortunes had sunk a couple of years ago, partly caused by a great generation of players retiring and partly by all the turmoil in the Cricket South Africa boardroom.

But there is an old saying that “teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success” and perhaps the most important thing to come out of the T20 World Cup had little to do with game-plans or individual performances: To see a South African team playing with that old never-say-die spirit, to see the passion they displayed on the field and the unity of purpose they showed as a squad, makes one believe that the glory days could be back soon.

The resilience and togetherness of this team was illustrated by the way they pulled together in the wake of the Quinton de Kock saga; the star player’s ill-judged actions could well have ripped the team apart, but instead it brought them closer together. De Kock was never hung out to dry on his own either.

It was disappointing to see the new board display the same sort of reactive, uninspiring leadership as their awful predecessors, but it is probably their first mis-step and they did move quickly to tidy up their mess.

In the midst of that upheaval, Temba Bavuma stood tall and showed that he is prime leadership material to help take the Proteas forward over the next five years.

The Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of the Proteas making a unified gesture of support continues to provide grist to the mill of the media and the woke, and Bavuma’s comments on the matter when they returned home were pure quality.

“It’s about how it translates into everyday life. We can all raise our fist or go down on our knee, but deep down in the heart, if we are not for the cause and we don’t show it in our everyday living, then you have to question the authenticity.

“The South African team was put under immense pressure, more than any other team, which I think was unfair. Not enough acknowledgement has been given to this team because people don’t get to hear the conversations we have had behind closed doors.

“The decision about Black Lives Matter has to be a collective one. We should avoid things being dictated to the team. Our country has big, big problems and that’s where our energy should be focused,” Bavuma said.

Although the Proteas captain was too polite to mention it, I’m sure he also rages about the unfair criticism of the Proteas batting strike-rate. Yes, T20 is generally a game where batsmen are meant to go berserk, but it is frustrating that critics don’t realise that conditions in the UAE were not conducive to rampant batting.

New Zealand have roared into Sunday’s final, but their key batsmen have had strike-rates not too dissimilar to those of the Proteas: Daryl Mitchell 140.71 v Aiden Markram 145.94; Martin Guptill 131.38 v David Miller 133.33; Kane Williamson 94.24 v Bavuma 108.33; Devon Conway 108.40 v Rassie van der Dussen 116.44.

With a massive series coming up against India, for the blinkered it’s time to stop being angry with the Proteas and instead roar out our support, especially since crowds will be allowed back into the stadiums.

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