SOUTH AFRICCA TOUR OF WEST INDIES 2024

South Africa back at the scene of the edge of greatness

How prepared are the South Africans for a new test?
How prepared are the South Africans for a new test? ©Getty

Half of South Africa's squad announced on Monday to play a men's Test series in West Indies next month will likely step back into the dressingroom at the Brian Lara Academy ground in Tarouba, Trinidad with their hearts in their hands and their minds in a mess.

It was here where the South Africans went where they had never been before by reaching a men's World Cup final for the first time. It was here that they steamrolled Afghanistan by nine wickets in their T20 World Cup semifinal on June 26. And it was here where South Africa's dream of finally winning a World Cup last knew the light of hope. Three days later, at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, India won - by seven runs - a final that would have jolted all who saw it.

Aiden Markram, Tristan Stubbs, Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada were in the XI for the semi and the final. Ryan Rickelton and Gerald Coetzee were on the bench. Lungi Ngidi and Nandre Burger were travelling reserves. All eight were among the 16 named for a tour that will start, on July 31, with a four-day match against a West Indies Invitational XI in Tarouba.

Those eight players wouldn't be human if they weren't plunged into an emotional abyss by being back in the place where they thought - believed, even - they had arrived at the edge of greatness. Only to crash to the reality, one game later, that their best was still not good enough. They will still smell their desperation in that dressingroom, and that will hurt.

Even so, the South Africans will have to wrench themselves from the pain of the recent past in order to take a step towards a better, brighter future. But that's complicated, as Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard captured when he wrote, "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."

The less imaginative factions of the cricket family proffer the lazy theory that different formats are in separate silos; that what happens in a T20I couldn't possibly affect the events of a Test. Happily, Shukri Conrad, who picked the Test squad and has something of a reputation as a cricketer whisperer, isn't short of imagination.

"Let's not take me back to a couple of Saturdays ago [when the T20 World Cup final was played]," Conrad told a press conference. "We'll see how the guys pull up. I haven't reached out to any of them yet. I wanted to give them time for everything to sink in, to give the guys their space, for them to deal with the disappointment of that final.

"If we need to tap into the psychological side of things then we do that. That's part and parcel of it. I assume they are all in a good mental place. We'll see next week when we get out of our camp [in Durban from next Monday to Friday] and also when the players come together after the MLC."

More of Conrad's creativity was on show in his answer to the question of who would bat at No. 3 in the Tests, which are scheduled for Queens Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Providence, Guyana from August 7 to 19.

"Temba [Bavuma] bats at four, Bedders [David Bedingham] bats at five, and Aiden [Markram] and Tony [de Zorzi] open the batting," Conrad said. Depending on the balance of the side we go with it's more than likely that Tristan Stubbs will bat at three.

"Technically he's one of the best around. People have just seen him as a white-ball player. But you look at the way he came in in the [T20] World Cup and basically commanded his space and imprinted himself on games.

"He is a hell of a player. He's the type of cricketer I want in the top order. I think he's got all the makings of a top-class No. 3. Some might say it's a big call, but I won't throw someone in at the deep end and give him a task that I didn't think he was capable of handling."

Stubbs didn't bat higher than No. 5 in his first 14 first-class innings, and was at No. 7 for half of them. His first innings at No. 3 was for South Africa A against their Sri Lanka counterparts in Colombo in June 2023. Stubbs scored 117. Conrad was in charge of that side.

Since then, Stubbs has had four more innings at No. 3. He scored 130 in the position for Eastern Province against Gauteng at St George's Park in November 2023. He has also taken guard at No. 4 six times since his promotion by Conrad, and it was when batting there for EP against KZN Inland in Pietermaritzburg in February he made an undefeated 302.

Clearly the kid - Stubbs is 23 - can bat in more than one format and more than one position, and South Africa will hope he makes himself at home at No. 3. They have deployed eight different players there since Hashim Amla played his last Test in February 2019. Of those, only Rassie van der Dussen's No. 3 average of 31.40 is above 30.

Van der Dussen's 98 against England at the Wanderers in January 2020 is the closest any South Africa No. 3 has come to a century since Amla called it quits. There have been only seven other efforts of 50 or more.

Who would have thought so, but it turns out replacing Amla isn't easy. All told, the eight No. 3s since he went have scored 1,370 runs at 24.91 in 32 Tests. In his last 32 Tests, the first of which was played when he was 36 and past his prime, Amla scored three centuries and a dozen 50s among his 1,924 runs, which he made at an average of 34.35.

It is part of Conrad's lot that this generation of South Africans have yet to produce a batting giant like Amla. Then again, not many generations of any team do. Conrad will know that, and that his job is to get the best out of the players he has at hand. That will mean addressing what happened three days after that magical night when they steamrolled Afghanistan. Maybe some Kierkegaard would help.

ShareTweet

COMMENTS

Move to top
开云体育九游娱乐安博体育|강남 달토 삼정호텔 지하1층에 위치해 있습니다|开云体育|皇冠体育|半岛体育|星空体育|天博体育|강남 홀덤 식음료 무제한 제공 칩싼타 출현지역|米兰体育|开云体育|모두의 홀덤 서울권 경기도권 오프홀덤을 즐기실수 있는 정보를 제공하고 있습니다 짜릿한 텍사스홀덤 모두의홀덤과 함께 즐겨요|강남 하이퍼블릭 모임, 피로연, 연말회식 간단한 비즈니스 자리에 이용하기 정말 좋습니다 강남하이퍼블릭 공식홈페이지 주대 위치 소개 등등 많은 정보가 담겨져 있습니다
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news