The return of the T20 World Cup is exciting news for cricket fans and there is good reason to believe that this World Cup will be the best edition yet given how starved the world has been of international tournaments.
It’s safe to say that some teams enjoyed better preparation than others in the build-up. It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that South Africa have been plagued by bitter in-house selection disagreements that have once again put the Proteas on the back foot before a ball has been bowled. Looking back, it is quite staggering to think that most of South Africa’s World Cup failures in the past have been self-inflicted and how much mental scarring has taken place because of that. Perhaps it’s best to go back to March 2015 before we address the current circus that has engulfed the team from the Rainbow Nation in a bid to demonstrate that the Proteas aren’t strangers to unwanted conflict.
Needless agony in Auckland
It was 23 March 2015, the night before South Africa were meant to play New Zealand in the semi-final of the World Cup. For all intents and purposes, the Proteas were expected to beat the hosts, not comfortably, but they had momentum on their side. Indeed, the South Africans had just steamrolled Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals and had arguably the most in-form players at the tournament in AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Imran Tahir, and Kyle Abbott. It was a bowling lineup that had shone against the Sri Lankans after skittling them for a meager 134. Following that devasting bowling display, the uncompromising South African batsman went to work and responded by chasing that score down in just 18 overs to progress to the semi-finals.
Needless to say, it was a settled South African dressing room that was in complete harmony the night before the semi-final given how well they had been playing together. There was, however, an ominous quiet in the Auckland night sky as the players got ready to turn in, and looking back now, it was too quiet. Out of the blue, the message tone of South African coach, Russell Domingo, pierced the calm of the night as he received a text that informed him that Kyle Abbott had to be dropped for the semi-final in favour of Vernon Philander who was not match-fit.
The message was from Haroon Lorgat who was at the time the CEO of South African cricket. Incredibly, Lorgat was asking his national coach to do something that was not in the best interests of South Africa’s hopes of winning a World Cup, as reported in detail by News24. Unsurprisingly, the news did not go down well in the camp with AB de Villiers threatening to go as far as to not take to the field and play in the semi-final. Everyone eventually did agree to play but the inevitable took place. Indeed, Philander’s first over to Brendon McCullum in the second innings set the tone after it went for an astonishing 22 runs and in the end, the New Zealanders would chase down the score that South Africa had set for them.
Grant Elliott, Superman!#OnThisDay four years ago, Elliott hit Dale Steyn into the Grandstand at Eden Park to take New Zealand through to their first Men’s @cricketworldcup final. pic.twitter.com/CeTAChogiq
— ICC (@ICC) March 23, 2019
It was a desperately sad and unnecessary end to the tournament and left the Proteas hurting. Once again, politics had reared its head and the good people of the Rainbow Nation had to pay the price which is something they may well do again in the UAE during the T20 World Cup after more shambolic decision making has rocked SA.
The more things change, the more they remain the same
This time, it is the exclusion of Chris Morris from the World Cup squad which has come as a surprise given that the all-rounder was the most expensive player ever bought in IPL history in February 2021. How does anyone explain that? Indeed, how can you omit a player that has fetched a higher price than Ben Stokes, Virat Kohli, and Pat Cummins? The New Balance cricket athlete will be sorely missed by the Proteas and the betting odds reflect as much.
In fact, as of 18 October, you will find the Proteas as far out as 5.50 in the latest Betway cricket odds to win their World Cup group. Perhaps those long odds also account for the fact that the South African selectors decided to leave talented spinner George Linde out of the squad too. It was another shock omission and yet again hard to justify after the 29-year-old helped bowl SA to victory against the West Indies only a few months ago.
— Chris Morris (@Tipo_Morris) October 22, 2018
Once again, we’re left utterly perplexed at South Africa’s insistence on throwing a spanner in the works.
Although we shouldn’t be because this type of self-sabotage has been going on for years. Regrettably, with this being the case, it’s hard to see how the Proteas will be able to win their first ICC trophy since 1998 without being able to send their best players onto the field.