Just when it seemed things could not get much murkier, South Africa have been plunged into a dark abyss once more not only by Australia’s pullout but also, because of a critical position they have not properly prepared themselves for.
South Africa are stuck between the frying pan and the fire. Not only has the opportunity to test the captaincy mettle been further scuttled by the cancellation of Australia’s tour of South Africa, but also, it has put the South African cricket team in much the same situation as they found themselves last year when the pandemic lockdown became a reality.
There was always conjecture around Faf du Plessis’ captaincy post after there was visible confusion on the India tour in 2019. Faf maintained he was the captain of the Twenty20 team till the ICC Twenty20 World Cup while upon landing, South Africa announced Quinton de Kock would be taking over the white ball duties.
If that was not enough to put seeds of doubt in the obviously capable man who opened coveted his captaincy role, the break inevitably caused Faf to introspect and then drop the captaincy altogether, a fear that was beginning to gain ground without South Africa really coming to terms to finding Faf’s successor or a solution to South Africa’s growing problems on and off the field.
If leadership and accountability issues were burning up the game off the field, on the field, the divided world could not be more obvious as Cricket South Africa were caught in the crossfire between identifying South Africa’s next Test captain and also, finding a way to meet the quota for transformation. With the few elevated black cricketers refusing to take on the criticism of being accused of making the team purely on the colour of their skin and not on the merit of their talent, the choice for South Africa were virtually absent.
That South Africa did not have a chance to test the waters became apparent in the course of the lockdown. But there was even more alarm when de Kock was appointed South Africa’s Test captain, a post he clarified was only a stopgap. Now the problem has surfaced once more with Mark Boucher, the head coach, stating that de Kock will not captain South Africa in future Tests.
To be fair, South Africa have not seen much of a backbone apart from the likes of Faf and de Kock in the playing line up for a considerable period of time. And there are question marks about Kagiso Rabada even though his name has come up with regard to the captaincy and also, in fulfilling the quota of appropriate representation. With Rabada already finding himself at odds with Faf at the ICC Cricket World Cup in England in 2019 over his workload and the subsequent indifferent performances, the captaincy might only complicate the role of the spearhead bowler.
The problem though is that South Africa are in the same boat as they were midway last year. There are no opportunities in the interim. There is no way to assess South Africa’s leading man to take them through this dark tunnel of introspection and transition and once again, they might be in danger of finding themselves whiling away idle time without finding an ideal man for the job.