posted on 2019-06-28 10:54:56
posted by Rohit Sankar
Image credits: Business Live
For the first time since landing in England, South Africa might actually be relaxed as they take the field for the remaining two fixtures against Sri Lanka and Australia. The façade has come off and all the swag and happy-go-lucky image has given way to torn looks and a weary faces after losses to New Zealand and Pakistan pushed them out of the World Cup.
“I’m feeling five years older,” a dejected du Plessis muttered in the press conference after Kane Williamson, much like Grant Elliott in 2015, sunk them into gloom after a well-fought contest at Edgbaston.
South Africa were hurting but much like a tranquilizer came the loss against Pakistan. The effect has forced them into slumber and into a no-pain world- the world outside World Cups; the world where they rule and laugh and rejoice at their plans coming into fruition.
The remaining two games are akin to bilateral matches for them. They aren’t the kind of team which seeks revenge for losses. So the last thing on their mind would be ensure a team like Sri Lanka go down with them.
"I wouldn't say that's a mission of ours to stop them [Sri Lanka] from qualifying. I think the important mission for us is to play good cricket - the cricket we know and the brand we know we are capable of playing,” JP Duminy said on the eve of the game against Sri Lanka.
Good cricket. A phrase South Africa were so far away from in their World Cup campaign. They came short with bat, ball and in the field. That the c-word never floated around and still South Africa find themselves sidelined from the tournament is an indication of how wretched their campaign was. It never really took off, yes, but that’s the past.
The last thing on their mind as they take on Sri Lanka and Australia will be to end their campaign on a high and go home and break the house. The house is broken, has leaks and just doesn’t offer shelter anymore. There are too many house members who do not belong there and despite all the crowd, there isn’t anyone who can save the house – that man was left to sleep in the outhouse by the way, perhaps rightly, but let’s not go there – and bring calm to the storm.
The first blow to the house might just need to come earlier than they think – in the two dead rubbers they play in England. They have JP Duminy about to retire and Hashim Amla, who seems to have forgotten how to score runs to dispense. Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi appear drained and strained and could do with a break.
But they are the nice guys who give farewell games to their stars. Duminy and Amla would most likely get one too. Probably Dale Steyn too would, once they get back home and embrace normalcy post Steyn's recovery.
But haven’t South Africa been too nice already? They let the stars go on and on and on and sacrificed a World Cup campaign for them. If AB de Villiers had rung them up a week before the selections and not on the day before, they might have welcomed him with a garland. Because they are nice people.
But maybe that’s the problem. Don’t be nice for a change. Bench Duminy. Bench Amla. Persist with those youngsters but point out to them that the bench is where they would spend their time if they don’t step up.
In reality, the two games hold little context to the tournament. Australia have qualified and Sri Lanka may not qualify either way. South Africa are out. They have nothing remaining in the World Cup. Or it could hold everything to their future. The attitude, the swag, the fearlessness – let it come out in decisions, not words.