Proteas brace for day of farewells in Manchester

Imran Tahir (Getty Images)
Imran Tahir (Getty Images)

Manchester - On Saturday at Old Trafford, the Proteas will say their 'goodbyes' to a tournament that has severely dented their reputation. 

The thought of a World Cup clash against rivals Australia being a dead-rubber is a hard one for South Africans to take, especially given that the Aussies are sitting pretty at the top of the 2019 competition log and guaranteed pf a place in the semi-finals. 

It has been one of the lowest points in South Africa's largely proud history in ODI cricket, and while Saturday will not be the way they had wanted to bow out of the tournament, it does at least provide a platform for a couple of players to say their farewells.

Both Imran Tahir and JP Duminy will play their final ODIs for the Proteas having announced that they will retire from the format at the end of the 2019 showpiece. 

Both remain available for T20I cricket with the T20 World Cup in mind towards the end of next year, but with Tahir now 40 and Duminy (35) grossly out of touch, that is no certainty. 

While Duminy's contribution to South African cricket can never be questioned - he will be left stranded on 199 ODI caps after Saturday - it is Tahir who will prove most difficult to replace. 

The leg-spinner has been simply massive for the Proteas in white ball cricket ever since making his debut at the 2011 World Cup. 

He quickly became one of the world's most dangerous and respected spinners in white ball cricket and, despite his unique circumstances, Tahir has evolved into a South African legend. 

172 ODI wickets at an average of 24.63 and an economy rate of 4.63 - those numbers tell their own story. 

Statistics aside, Tahir has been the very best example of what a South African cricketer should look like. 

Passion for the nation and the common cause has always been central to sport in this country, and nobody over the last eight years has depicted that more than Tahir. 

Wickets mean everything to him, regardless of the match or tournament situation, and he has a burning desire to keep improving. 

Keeping him involved in some capacity in the national set-up is an absolute no-brainer for Cricket South Africa (CSA) moving beyond the tournament. 

Duminy, meanwhile, will perhaps look back at his career thinking he could have ticked a few more boxes.

When he is in full flight, it is difficult to find a batsman easier on the eye than Duminy. In those moments, he oozes elegance and is as good as anybody. 

The hard truth, though, is that those moments have not happened consistently enough. 

An ODI average of just under 37 shows that he is more than deserving of such a long and successful career, but Duminy is a better player than just four centuries in nearly 15 years of ODI cricket. 

Seeing him limp to the finish line at this World Cup has not been easy to watch and it is not the way any professional wants to go out, but Duminy has always played the game in the right spirit and with his head held high. 

He, like Tahir, has been a superb ambassador for the game in South Africa and has earned a collective send-off from anyone who has invested any time into Proteas cricket over the years. 

"For me, legacy lies in when people look back and think of you," Duminy offered ahead of last week's clash against Sri Lanka in Durham.

"Legacy is not in performance. Legacy is the person you are. It’s about being a good person."

Another Protea who could be at the end of the road, certainly in ODI cricket, is Hashim Amla

The 36-year-old has not made any announcements regarding his future and says he will spend time with his family after the tournament before doing so, but he hasn't been at his best for some time now. 

Struggles against genuine, raw pace are where most of the concerns lie for Amla, and he will be tested in that regard against Mitchell Starc on Saturday. 

It wouldn't be against Amla's character to leave the stage quietly, so there is every chance that this could be his final ODI before he makes an exit under the radar. 

If that is the case, then this will be the last opportunity to see one of the greatest batsman South Africa has ever produced operate in a format that he dominated for years. 

It's looking more and more like the end of an era for the Proteas...

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

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