CWC 2019 tour diaries: The fish and chip shop owner's burning Proteas question

Indian fans outside the Rose Bowl (Supplied)
Indian fans outside the Rose Bowl (Supplied)

Southampton - When Indian skipper Virat Kohli gave his post-match press conference at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, about an hour after play had stopped, the roars from in and around the stadium could still be heard. 

Indian fans are religious about their cricket.

We accept this to be true, but seeing that uncontrolled passion manifest first-hand drives it home. 

The few South Africans in the crowd may as well have been in Mumbai, and in those moments towards the end of the match when Indian victory was inevitable the celebrations kicked into overdrive and they were breath-taking. 

While witnessing the power of the Indian cricket machine is awe-inspiring, seeing this Proteas calamity first hand has been difficult to watch. 

The last week has been a car crash. 

The feelings of disappointment, anger and an acceptance that it could all be over before it ever really began were palpable on Wednesday.

Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis was nowhere to be seen at the press conference, sending Chris Morris to front up to media instead. 

After another post-match filing session in which our sizeable South African media contingent painted pictures of a stumbling Proteas side on the verge of being knocked out cold, it was time to head home.

With the laptops closed shut and objectivity out the window, a group of South African journos stumbled into a Southampton fish and chips shop. We had earned it.

On or off the clock, the cricket talk never stops, and together we exchanged theories on where it was all going wrong. 

The unit of a gentleman frying our fish, having just talked us through his 'Southampton fish shop of the year' award dangling off the wall, offered some sage advice. 

"You know what never made any sense to me," he barked from the kitchen as we all stopped yacking and looked up in unison. 

"Why didn't Aiden Markram play? He's spent over a month here, at the Rose Bowl, and he made more runs than anyone in all three formats ... yet when he comes back here in a World Cup you leave him out?"

A fish and chip shop owner from Southampton had just posed an incredibly pertinent question to the South African national selectors, and it was hard to answer. 

It was one of those moments that takes you by surprise when you realise cricket's extensive reach, but also one that reminded of how much the Proteas have puzzled in England. 

The fish and chips were worthy of their award-winning status and went down a treat on the drive to the quaint town of Hungerford where four of us are sharing a very big house in the country. 

Whether we're writing, braaing, playing backyard golf on a self-designed course or boiling the kettle on never-ending coffee runs, the cricket talk never sleeps.

It's an hour-long drive into the Rose Bowl, and we spend those trying to make sense of a Proteas side that has disappointed themselves and everyone they represent so far.

We have our theories, but unravelling the mystery that is South Africa's World Cup curse is a topic that you could spend days on without solving anything. 

On Friday, we were stuck indoors, wrapped in blankets as the English heavens opened for the first time since the tournament began. 

Hungerford feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, and that's because it is.

But with the unrelenting chaos that has accompanied this journey so far, it might just be the safest place to be…

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...

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