In just over one year, South Africa, who were considered to be among the favourites, crumbled at the biggest stage. They were on the receiving end of disappointing losses to India, Bangladesh and England in the ICC World Cup 2019 with nowhere to hide. Just as it was destined to end on the wrong note, the Proteas put in a virtuoso performance against Australia to reinstate their credentials on Saturday.
The end of the World Cup also signals a new era from them with JP Duminy and Imran Tahir bidding farewell to international cricket. This also opens the path for talented youngsters to carve a way through the domestic set-up and stake a claim for a place in the squad for the next edition of the World Cup. With the blueprint of England resurgence post-2015 being lauded by the cricketing fraternity, it may not be that straightforward for the selectors. With the number of T20 franchise leagues increasing in recent months, talented individuals such as AB de Villiers have already slammed the door. In addition to this, the lure of English County Cricket and the pay has also forced the likes of Duanne Olivier and Colin Ackermann to attain Kolpak status.
A lot of thinking has to be done in regards to who they believe should lead the side. Although Faf du Plessis has led the team admirably, 2023 seems a bit far-fetched given he is on the wrong side of 30. Potential candidates arise with Aiden Markram, the captain of South Africa's U19 team in 2014, in the running. In spite of there being no questions about his captaincy, there are doubts over his technique which opens the door of Quinton de Kock. Whoever does don the captaincy boots must understand the task ahead of them.
Andile Phehlukwayo and Rassie van der Dussen were the only ones to come out of the World Cup with some credit. The immediate task for the selectors would be to find a suitable core group of players to build a side around. The duo of Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada are destined to lead the South African attack for the decade. Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen and Andile Phehlukwayo also join them in the core of the side with their performances speaking for themselves. Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and Imran Tahir have served the nation well. The immediate task ahead of the selectors would be identifying suitable replacements to fill the gaps in their perceived first XI.
Over the last year or so, Janneman Malan is one name that has popped up in many discussions. The young opener has already made his debut in the T20 format against Pakistan with relative success. Although he looks raw, he could fit the bill as the back-up opener behind Markram and de Kock. With Faf du Plessis' future uncertain, the middle order looks fragile, to say the least. Along with Rassie van der Dussen, the likes of Reeza Hendricks, Kyle Verreynne and Temba Bavuma are decent options to consider. The prospect of the youngster, Zubayr Hamza, is also fascinating with the Cobras batsman already making his Test debut and showing grit and determination.
David Miller has been highly inconsistent over the years, which has left fans wanting for an alternative as well. Wiaan Mulder is a decent option, although he does not operate in the manner, Miller does with his big-hitting abilities. He is a resourceful player in the mould of Jacques Kallis with a lot of room for improvement. Another option alongside Miller would be Warriors keeper, Sinethemba Qeshile. His impressive performances in the Momentum One Day Cup earned him a national call-up and is very capable of clearing the ropes at ease.
With Imran Tahir's departure, Keshav Maharaj, Tabriz Shamsi and Bjorn Fortuin should ideally be allowed to prove their worth. All eyes will be on Maharaj with the left-arm spinners already excelling in the longer format. The third pacer's spot is also up for grabs although Chris Morris did come up with noteworthy performances in the World Cup. Lutho Sipamla and Anrich Nortje should be the ideal candidates to lead South Africa's resurgence alongside Rabada and Ngidi.
Raynard von Tonder is also one for the future while the current U-19 stars such as Bryce Parsons and Jonathan Bird are also earmarked to star for South Africa. The key to building a World Cup-winning squad is to have a resourceful roster. The selectors will have to immediately narrow down on whom they would want in their side and provide the freedom to express themselves, akin to Eoin Morgan's England side in 2015.
With a big task ahead of them, it has to be seen as to how South Africa handle the disappointment of this World Cup and plan towards 2023.
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