TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
NOW is the winter of SA’s discontent. It comes at the end of another bruising season in which reputations were diminished and the future came into focus as imperfect and uncertain.
What will that future look like?
Might the one-day triangular SA will contest along with Australia in the Caribbean in June provide an answer? Could the two tests SA will host against New Zealand in August bring us closer to that truth?
Probably not, and that’s regardless of who holds what position during those series. No coach – whether they are Russell Domingo or not – is going to fix what’s wrong by then.
That will take a long time and plenty of effort by all involved, and is quite likely to involve unhappy returns to the sad place SA are in now.
If your view is that Domingo must go for the future to be brighter, who replaces him? Surely no elite coach who is not South African is going to take on a job that should require a degree in political science.
That would seem to leave us with two candidates: Ray Jennings, who has won something at international level in the shape of the 2014 under-19 World Cup, and Geoff Toyana, who has crowded the Lions’ trophy cabinet.
But to wonder what the suits will do is to invite sleepless nights. Those who harbour hopes that they will sort out this malaise won’t want to hear that the review promised by Cricket SA on the squad’s return from another crash and burn in the World T20 is standard procedure.
It’s not as if Cricket SA have suddenly hit upon the idea of trying to find out what went wrong. They do this all the time. And, like the team itself, they have failed. Again.
Which is not to doubt their resolve. Clouds hangs heavy over SA cricket’s tracksuits and suits both. So they should. But at least they do – imagine what a mess cricket would be in if its bosses looked on events at the WT20 like, say, the ANC does on the Constitutional Court’s Nkandla decision?
Cricket should be upset with itself, and it is. But, notably, no-one has seen fit to apologise for SA’s performance.
“I place my hands together and beg forgiveness from the nation,” no less a figure than Waqar Younis said after his Pakistan team, like SA, became first-round casualties at the WT20.
What Waqar said next – “If my leaving makes things better then I would do it without delay” – sounds less like sincerity and more like him leaning on his greatness to save his job.
But there’s a significant difference in apologising and the disappointment SA have expressed.
“We feel exactly the same and the fans have every right to feel like that,” Faf du Plessis said on the squad’s return. “When you’ve got a great team on paper like we do you expect results. We went there to try and win.”
But, Faf, much as I respect you as a player, a captain and a bloke, you didn’t win. Your team was not that great.
Another difference was that the Pakistan players were greeted at the airport by angry fans. SA came home to the usual: a throng of kind faces seeking selfies and autographs. Perhaps people get the cricket team they deserve.
You have to wonder how deep the denial goes. This is, after all, the country into which teams of money-hungry rebels were spirited to play what the media gleefully billed and too much of the public accepted as “test” matches against a side that took as their right the unearned privilege of representing SA.
Who in that past could have imagined this present? Which tells us the future is not for forecasting. It is for planning and for not repeating the mistakes of history. Good luck with that.