Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Time to rebuild for South Africa cricket

March 6, 2014

First Jacques Kallis retired. Then Graeme Smith called it quits. In between, South Africa lost a test series against Australia, their first at home since the 2008-09 season.

What stares the Proteas in the face now, however, is a far bigger challenge than just replacing two great cricketers.

The real test lies in rebuilding the team once again, with a new leadership and vision.

South African cricket is now known for what Smith achieved, and not for those World Cups where they ‘choked’. They deserve to be the No. 1 test side in the world but retaining that position now will be a different task all together.

The onus is now on the likes of AB de Villers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and Dale Steyn to herald a new era which takes forward the good work put in by Smith.

It won’t be easy, like their re-admission to cricket, but it isn’t impossible either.

Firstly, de Villiers will need to give up keeping completely. He is the team’s best batsman and looks the most likely candidate to take over the test captaincy. Relieving him of keeping duties will help him cope with the demands of the game, both physically and mentally.

Quinton de Kock, who now keeps wickets in ODIs, deserves to get a run in tests. He may fail with the bat initially, like in his debut test, but seems to have the talent to last at international level.

Secondly, South Africa needs to resist the temptation of playing a spinner just for the sake of it. Robin Peterson and Imran Tahir haven’t made the most of opportunities handed to them and have at times let the opposition get away with easy runs. They may still have a role to play in sub-continent conditions but for that to happen they need to improve and be consistent.

South Africa need to look into their domestic stocks and find a opener to partner Alviro Petersen. Dean Elgar isn’t a natural choice for the opening slot but South Africa may experiment with him given the fact that he has a central contract now after Smith made way.

South Africa, though, will be better served if a younger player dons that role. Rilee Rossouw and Reeza Hendricks are two young players who have shown promise and this is the right time to give them a chance. Elgar can come in for any of the middle order players if they lack form or suffer injury.

With Vernon Philander improving with the bat, South Africa don’t need to be consumed by the lack of a genuine all-rounder. JP Duminy has done well too as a part-time off-spinner.

Instead, the Proteas need to blood a fast bowler to partner Steyn, Philander and Morne Morkel. They could look at Kyle Abbott or Wayne Parnell. Left-arm paceman Beuran Hendricks and Under-19 star Kagiso Rabada also look the best among domestic options.

All these changes now may cost South Africa some tests, denting their reputation as the No.1 test side, but it would strengthen their future, one that could see them beating Australia once again.

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