With the recent media hoopla around the SJN (Social Justice and Nation-Building) hearings of ex-coloured and black South African cricketers, one need not be Einstein to figure the past scars of racial animosity have come back to bite South African Cricket.
The man in the centre of this chaos or should I say bad taste is current Proteas coach, Mark Boucher.
While one cannot deny the objective of the SJN committee to make the team more inclusive going forward by understanding and rectifying the wrongs of the past is definitely a healthy sign, the uncertainty this has left over the current team with their coach at the centre of the storm at the onset of the Sri Lankan tour has been huge.
The man in charge of the current group of players fighting for national pride has been at the receiving end of a testimony from the ex-Protea spinner, Paul Adams who said Mark and other members of the team called the Capetonian Brown Sh*t in a song sung at fines meetings after winning matches during the late 90s and early 2000s.
Make no mistake, any kind of remarks on skin colour or race are totally unacceptable. Certainly, disrespectful and very derogatory to say the least!
Having said this, Boucher has given his apology and understands the impact his naive actions had on the coloured and black members of the team in a country still battling the wounds of a scarred past, but is that all?
Well, unfortunately not.
If this storm wasn’t enough, a hurricane has also come to partner the inclement conditions with the Proteas assistant coach, Enoch Nkwe tendering in his resignation recently, owing to disillusionment with the job of assistant coach and differences of opinion with head coach Mark Boucher.
Imagine what the players must be going through having their head coach find himself amidst a controversy and the assistant coach deciding to part ways with the team.
Surely, not a good space to be in if you’re part of the Proteas.
Despite these ill-fated events, the captain, Temba Bavuma has insisted Boucher has cleared his stand in front of the team and there is no feeling of discomfort albeit is this truly the case when all the Proteas want is to concentrate on the on-field side of things to win this all important ODI and T20 series in Sri Lanka but unfortunately have to deal with off-field shenanigans which are not created as a result of their own doing.
The pressure is going to be immense on the Proteas and the seniors in the team will have to make sure to ride this wretched wave with all their might.
Truth be told, if South Africa does manage to beat Sri Lanka in both the legs of this tour, the victory will serve as the all-important ointment on the wounds of the team, the coach and most importantly the South African fan who need I say is surely tired of all these flaring tensions and uncertainties.
Bavuma and Rassie need to shoulder more responsibility
The Proteas will be without regular opener de Kock and middle order stalwart David Miller in the ODI leg of the tour which automatically would put more responsibility on the shoulders of captain Bavuma and his able deputy, Rassie van der Dussen.
These two icons of Proteas’ cricket will have to bring all their experience to the fore on the low and slow surfaces of Sri Lanka with adopting the mantra of playing the ball on its merit rather than being pre-emptive with their strokes.
They would be complemented by youngsters in the dasher, Janneman Malan, the more than capable, Kyle Verreynne and the coming of age, Aiden Markram to make up the batting order.
Fact is, the Proteas need a collective effort to topple the Sri Lankans.
When it comes to the bowling department, The Mzansi would surely be more adept with two world class operators in Rabada and Nortje and add to that the spin-wizz in Shamsi who recently has earned the much-deserved IPL contract with Rajasthan Royals.
For me, George Linde should don the allrounder’s hat with his spin adding more depth to the Protea bowling resources. Possibly a second in either Wiaan Mulder or the returning Dwaine Pretorius could also be looked at as it won’t be a bad idea to play two all-rounders to improve the overall balance of the team.
All in all, the young Protea side for me looks good to mount the Lankan challenge at least on paper with performance being the final word.
Lankan Lions can’t be taken lightly at their own den
Its no rocket science to know Sri Lankan cricket is no where close to the mighty force we once knew them to be, having been comprehensively beaten by West Indies, Bangladesh, England and India in their last four ODI series.
Having said this, the Lankan Lions finally arrested their unabated run of losses by coming on top in the T20 series against India that followed the ODI leg.
The Island Nation won the shortest format series 2-1 under new captain and all-rounder Dasun Shanaka and truth be told, a team is as good as its last series and Sri Lanka certainly by that logic are winners.
With the inclusion of the experienced Dinesh Chandimal in the squad to face the Proteas, the batting department will surely have more meat which also boasts the likes of Dhananjaya de Silva and Kusal Perrera.
The cherry on the cake though for the Lankans would be their ace leg spinner, young Wanindu Hasaranga who has already picked up 62 wickets from 51 international appearances.
His ability to deceive batters with clever variations will surely test the skill of the Proteas with their performance or should I say lack of it against quality spinners having been well-documented in the Cricketing Bible.
Ask Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, the chief destroyers of the Protea batting line up in the limited overs leg when India toured the Proteas home last and they would whole-heartedly agree!
This series will surely be one to watch out for, with both teams having a point to prove to take the much-needed confidence heading into the T20 World Cup. More so for Sri Lanka who for the first time have to play qualifiers to cement their place in the T20 Show Piece.
Now, to answer the question that serves as the title of this article, the fan in me says the team in green and gold are surely ready albeit the logical analyser will most certainly differ.
Truth be told, it doesn’t matter what my answer is as long as the 11-man strong Protea army battling the Lankans on the field believe they are ready.
Tune in on Thursday, 2nd September to see the action live!