South African cricket in 2020 was akin to a ship sailing amid testing waters. Just that the stormy weather this beautiful, very passionate ship encountered, to a significant extent, problems created by those entrusted with its navigation. Confused? Well, don’t be.
Here’s the key fact associated with South African cricket in 2020.
As a rather eventful year with a lot of uncertainty owing to dreadful virus that created immense panic around the world draws to a close, I would like to affirm some positivity to each and every South African reader as well as readers world-wide by wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
While its easy to hit rock bottom, the strength of an individual is seen in the way he pulls himself up, as in life, as in sport. We do understand that South African cricket in 2020 hit the rock bottom, reaching a stage where one just didn’t see any light and probably one still doesn’t.
But then, let’s also not forget that it’s the will to conquer adversity that tests the make of every individual. And this is the Madiba-land where courage and self-confidence unite inspiringly- right?
Make no mistake.
The COVID virus has plagued one of the greatest adversities upon mankind, but our strength is such that we will overcome this too.
Likewise, when it comes to cricket, South Africa’s year has also been marred with a virus albeit of a different kind, that has hampered their performance both on the field and off it too.
Having said this, like people around the world, South African cricket has also shown signs of life as the time comes to draw the curtains on 2020.
When Mark Boucher took over the coaching role last December, the mighty English had arrived on the Southern African shores and the Proteas surely did not expect what would hit them next.
The Poms thrashed the Proteas 3-1 in the Test series, which also saw the hosts lose six out of the seven tests they had contested after the 2019 World Cup.
A disastrous start to harbouring ambitions of winning the much prestigious Test Championship.
Dismal isn’t it?
To add to this dejection, their form in the limited overs leg as a part of the same tour wasn’t encouraging either, losing the T20 series 2-1 and barely managing to square the ODI series, after the first game was washed out due to inclement weather.
Australia toured next and they too thrashed the Proteas 2-1 in the T20 series.
South African Cricket in 2020 had already begun hitting rock-bottom. This is when 2020 began (albeit) in a playing capacity with the off-field drama about to strike.
What followed, again was not expected. The Proteas in the ODI leg of the Australia series white-washed the Kangaroos three nil.
Yes, that’s right. This after being dragged into a dark tunnel by the Poms and the Kangaroos with no light in sight.
The turnaround happened thanks to the rise of the four horsemen
- A devastating opener in Janneman Malan
- A Young Turk in Kyle Verreyne
- An all-rounder of substance in Jon Jon Smuts
- The coming of age of hard-hitting batter in Heinrich Klaasen.
As South Africa was getting their game back on track after finally tasting some success and having made the trip to India for a quick limited overs series, what happened next, each and every soul in the world wasn’t expecting.
COVID 19 which was seen as just another flu till then, was declared a global pandemic and life as we knew was about to change forever come March 2020.
The world went into lockdown to prevent the spread of this infectious virus and all global sport was immediately brought to a sudden halt.
Work from home was the new life normal and economic devastation with millions of job and small business losses for people who couldn’t work from home, the new business normal.
South Africa wasn’t spared either.
As life continued to struggle with the panic and devastation thanks to the pandemic, Cricket South Africa’s own off-field cycle of struggle was also about to start.
Corruption, race divide, politics and the resignations of key figures, the likes of President Chris Nenzani, acting CEO Jacques Faul and the ousting of permanent ex CEO Thabang Moroe basis the Forensic Report was just the start.
What followed was SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) taking control of cricket, which CSA vehemently opposed and finally the Minister of Sport intervened to sack the entire CSA board and appoint an Interim Board to clean up the mess and take remedial action as per the Forensic Report.
The shenanigans wouldn’t end there when the Members Council (the highest authority in Cricket South Africa) consisting of 14 affiliate provinces, decided to not recognise the Interim Board which would lead to a direct intervention by the Minister in cricket and as a result, a possible ICC ban.
Better sense did prevail and the Members Council finally recognised the Interim Board.
This ordeal would last for about six months when there was no on-field action thanks to the pandemic and believe you me, the South African Board lost a lot of credibility not only in their own country by losing team sponsors but also in World Cricket at large.
In November, things finally started to look up for Cricket South Africa with the Interim Board firmly in control and an English tour looming amid a bio-bubble which became the new normal in sport.
The tour did go-ahead as planned albeit with more drama instore.
On-field, the Proteas were again thrashed by a much superior English side in the T20s and before a ball could be bowled in the ODIs, the series was all but cut short owing to positive cases with England deciding to return home.
An on-field and off-field nightmare for South Africa with further loss of playing credibility and a mounting financial loss with the series cut short.
Yes, South African Cricket in 2020, as we know it, was again in the pits of hell.
But having said this, as a diehard Proteas fan, there is still light at the end of the tunnel as we enter a new year with optimism galore and a sense of renewed hope.
But as the new year dawns, there are quite a few reasons to feel optimistic knowing well that South African cricket in 2020 was anything but a source of unbridled joy, something it’s so often been in all these years.
Sri Lanka in South Africa – Two Test Series (January)
Well for starters, despite the English debacle, Sri Lanka have still made the trip to South Africa for a two match test series amid a better bio secure environment being created after having learnt from the English experience.
The first test gets underway on Boxing Day with South Africa more than keen to salvage the last series loss suffered at the hands of the Lankan Lions in their own backyard and also get some points on the board in the World Test Championship.
Quinton de Kock has been given the captaincy responsibility in tests albeit in an interim capacity, till the selection think-tank narrows down on a permanent leader.
Aiden Markram will be itching to get some runs at the top of the order, to once again cement his place with Dean Elgar and who knows, anoint himself in the captaincy race too.
On the bowling front, with Kagiso Rabada still injured, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi will spearhead the attack and will have young Glenton Sturrman, Migeal Pretorius and Litho Simpamla for company.
Another exciting talent to look forward to would be young Wiaan Mulder who in all probability would fill the all-rounders role.
South Africa tour to Pakistan – Two Tests and Three T20s (Jan-Feb)
An historical occasion would see the Proteas tour a truly beautiful part of the sub-continent after a huge gap of fourteen long years.
Yes, that’s right the last time South Africa set foot in Pakistan was way back in 2007 under the leadership of Graeme Smith, who is now the Director of Cricket.
It surely would be a series of cut-throat competition matched with high level of excitement.
Australia tour to South Africa – Three Test Series (Feb-March)
Australia will be eyeing the Sri Lankan series very closely to monitor the bio-secure arrangements, basis which they would decide on touring the Mzansi.
While Cricket Australia has high intent to make this tour possible, an alternate of the Western Australian city of Perth hosting the series is also a possibility amid the mounting concerns.
T20 World Cup in India (Oct-Nov)
Another Global Tournament, another opportunity for South Africa to win a first. For the cynical observers of the game, another chance to label them chokers. For me a possibility to remove the tag.
India tour of South Africa – Three Tests and Three T20s (End of the year)
What a cracker of a series to end 2021.
When India play South Africa, it is always a treat not only from a cricketing perspective but also financially for the strained South African board with the massive infusion of funds thanks to the broadcasting revenue.
While these are the confirmed series I am aware about, there could be more which we would know in due time as the ICC calendar unfolds.
Hopefully the virus won’t play a role in dictating the fortunes of 2021 and with the hope of tears of joy replacing tears of anguish as was in 2020, would love to see the Proteas reach the pinnacle of world cricket, yet again.