The Proteas’ loss to India in the current Test series in India is their first away series defeat in nine years involving fifteen series. During this period the Proteas have also only been beaten twice at home, on both occasions by Australia. What a wonderful achievement by the number one ranked Test team in world cricket.
The current tour of India has been a bitter-sweet experience for Russell Domingo’s men, winning both the T20 and ODI series but being outplayed in the Test series. However, to be fair, the Test pitches have been at best sub-standard and have heavily favoured spin bowling which remains the nemesis of South African teams.
There are definitely signs that this current Proteas team is undergoing a personnel change and feeling the effects of these changes. The retirement of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince have left a huge void in the batting line up. The younger batsmen like Dean Elgar, Stiaan van Zyl and Quinton De Kock are still finding their way in Test cricket.
AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla remain the only world-class players in the batting line-up. JP Duminy should also have been a major player by now but he has been a disappointment, averaging under 35 in thirty one Tests. The selectors should accept that he is not good enough for Test cricket and give an opportunity to younger batsmen like Reeza Hendricks and Temba Bavuma.
Much of the Proteas’ success has been built on a very good fast bowling unit that has complemented each other perfectly. They have consistently taken the necessary 20 wickets to win Test matches and series. Within the near future they will also need to be replaced as Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel and Vernon Philander are all over thirty. Steyn, especially, is starting to show the signs that his great career has had on his body.
South Africa in the past has been known to produce quality fast bowlers and Kagiso Rabada is the next generation of South African fast bowler. He has a fantastic career ahead of him in all forms of international cricket. However, after Rabada the cupboard looks fairly bear with regards to quality, young fast bowlers.
The next mission for the Proteas is the long-awaited Test series against England. It should prove to be a fantastic series with England maybe slight favourites as they seem to have their bases better covered than South Africa.
The selectors need to be brave and pick Reeza Hendricks to open the batting with Elgar and move Van Zyl to the middle order. Hendricks is technically made for Test cricket and Van Zyl is a natural middle-order player as he showed when he scored a hundred on Test debut against the West Indies. This change must be at the expense of Duminy who has had enough chances. They also need to bring back Quinton de Kock as the wicketkeeper and bat him at seven.
The current season will no doubt be a watershed year for the Proteas as they try to remain the number one Test team and also undergo a generation change.