Faf du Plessis and South Africa’s tales of woe

The direction of South African cricket isn't one of optimism unless drastic changes are made.

Faf du Plessis & Aiden Markram
Faf du Plessis & Aiden Markram. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Kagiso Rabada had given it almost everything. Mark Nicholas and Shaun Pollock definitely believed that he had. Yet, the heart of the 24-year-old stretches right through South Africa. KG always gave it everything. For someone his age, it was quite phenomenal really. Faf du Plessis is stationed at the cover. Hopeful. For a whiff of magic perhaps.

With every single MS Dhoni runs. Every passing delivery brings the Indians closer to a victory. A much-anticipated victory, as one would have predicted. Rohit Sharma has gone well past a hundred. Yet another one at that. For the likes of Harsha Bhogle and Sanjay Manjrekar, Sharma’s century is rather unprecedented. If one goes by the stats in the warm-up matches, Rohit paints a sorry picture.


Yet, the century has been coming. Like an itch that has been scratched. Finally! As far as ‘The Hitman’ is concerned.

There is expectation in the air. As far as du Plessis is concerned. Rabada has exactly nine deliveries. Even a wicket. Any wicket would give them a wild shot of redemption, if not victory. The youngster, perhaps one of the finest bowlers in the world, charges in. He runs in as though it is the first ever delivery he will bowl in ODI cricket. The intensity is there for all to see.

Rohit Sharma, meanwhile, has raced well beyond a century. His concentration, as he has shown before, is quite phenomenal. He faces up to Rabada. The latter hit the deck hard. So hard, that it takes the Indian vice-captain by surprise. The pressure has reached its zenith and Rohit has decided to deposit it to the south stand.

The stroke goes horribly wrong. So wrong that David Miller at cover poises himself. KG Rabada looks on hopefully. Perhaps this was the magic moment du Plessis had indeed been waiting for. As bad as the shot, Miller floors the catch and Rohit survives. It’s not dumb luck. It is destiny.

Graeme Smith and Shaun Pollock watched in sheer disbelief. It was shocking. To say the least. To rub salt on the wounds, Rohit nudged the following delivery just over Quinton de Kock to the fence. As Hardik Pandya smashed Phehlukwayo to the point boundary, one wondered what South Africa had been reduced to.

A massive prospect for reaching the semifinal of the tournament was the Proteas. Yet, they now found themselves at the bottom without a point on the board to their name. It was pure art — the manner in which Rohit Sharma had managed to script the victory. But, sparing a thought for South Africa, it is nothing short of a sorry story.

Luck or ability?

This has been the story for the Proteas. Not just this World Cup. But since the summer of 1992 Down Under. The dismantling of the colour-based regime in the Rainbow nation saw South Africa stake their claim yet, with rain, it would seem that scoring 22 runs from a solitary delivery is simply not possible.

It not that South Africa has not performed well in World Cups. When one looks at nations who are yet to lift the trophy, the Proteas have done rather well for themselves. Barring the debacle of 2003, of course, played on home soil. Once again, an error on the side of judgment.

They have also been privy to some of the greatest cricketers of all time. It is not as if you would find the likes of Jacques Kallis or perhaps even a Shaun Pollock within the same generation. The ‘choker’ tag might have been there, but is it really South Africa who choke? Sometimes? Well maybe? But in the context of what is happening in England? More specifically, the proceedings In the Rose Bowl.

Troubleshooting the problem

If one looks closely, this World Cup for Faf du Plessis has been one disaster after another. On looking closer, one may very well assume that the skipper has indeed done well with what he has got. Of course, they did lose out against Bangladesh and England, but the match against India exposed a few cracks in the preparations.

The first question one would ask is whether that was the best team fielded on the day? It almost seemed as though Reeza Hendricks had bad press and was sidelined while Tabraiz Shamsi was pulled out of oblivion to do battle against one of the strongest sides in the tournament.

The KulCha twins wreaking havoc

The second is something that has persisted from when Virat Kohli and his band of merry men had made a visit to South Africa. They had lost the Test series. But the ODIs had been an entirely different story. The famed ‘KulCha’ twins had made life quite horrible for the Proteas batsmen and they simply could not decode the puzzling wrist-spin, so to speak.

This problem was once again uncovered on the south coast. Of course, an under-confident Kuldeep did create the odd problem, but it was Chahal this time, who proved to be the unpredictable one. The duo would once again end up with five of nine South African scalps with Jasprit Bumrah proving to be a nuisance for the pace-friendly South African batsmen.

This problem, in fact, had been diagnosed by the wily Sunil Gavaskar. The former had pointed out that the South African batsmen would need to watch for the wrong’ uns, as they are popularly known. The legendary batsman would also go on to recommend the famed Bucchi Babu tournament for the Proteas batsmen to hone their skills.

Of course, these are technical issues that would need to be addressed over a period of time, but there was still one issue that remains.

Mark Nicholas, in all his infinite wisdom, took a moment to reflect on Jonty Rhodes. The legendary fielder has been famed for his flying runout in the 92’ World Cup. Rhodes had managed to do several fielding camps in recent times while serving as fielding coach on several other occasions as well. However, he certainly would not be happy with what he saw.

While the Miller drop certainly would be making headlines, it is the fielding in general which the Proteas would be hoping to rectify. The one thing that has managed to keep them solvent in the harsh world of cricket since 1992.

With six games to be played, Faf du Plessis will surely be hoping that his side does indeed get their act together and make amends for their shortcomings so far.