Cape Town – The public must have patience with a novice-laden Proteas team experiencing cyclical difficulties which all national sides do.
That is the appeal from Ali Bacher, former chief executive of the United Cricket Board of South Africa and captain of the legendary 1969/70 South African Test team who clean-swept Australia 4-0.
Speaking to Sport24 here this week, while promoting his new book South Africa’s Greatest Bowlers (with David Williams), Bacher said the successive recent home Test reverses to England had not surprised him.
“It is simply an extension of what I already feared at the World Cup (in 2019) - a team lacking experience and confidence after the departure of a handful of great players like Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers; it has come home to roost a bit in this Test series.
“We’re having a rough time in South Africa at present and it may go on for a while. There are some good young cricketers around but they are still quite raw.
“It will take another two or three years: let them play some hard, unforgiving cricket in that time, build them up and create a decent team for the next World Cup (in India, 2023).
“We can come through and be a strong nation again. I am not disillusioned.”
Bacher said certain positives were already coming to the fore: “We have unleashed a couple of fine prospects just recently. (Strike bowler) Anrich Nortje has a beautiful action and bowls regularly around 150km/h; he’s terrific and will cause global batsmen a lot of problems in two or three years’ time.
“The opening batsman, Pieter Malan, too … I’m not sure where they found him from. He can bat, his technique is outstanding.
“Those are assets we didn’t have before, so we are still unearthing these kinds of players. We mustn’t get demoralised.”
Bacher also backs the likelihood that Temba Bavuma is restored to the team for the decisive final Test at the Wanderers from Friday.
“Look, he has a Test average of 31, and that’s not too bad. I’d like to see him get another crack.
“His former Gauteng coach, Geoffrey Toyana, once told me nobody worked as hard at his game as this kid. Every day he was phoning Geoff to implore him to throw to him at the nets.
“So if you have that commitment and determination, you’d like to see it succeed. He got 180 (for the Lions) the other day … bring him back and see how he goes. Time will tell.”
Bacher says the Proteas can take a leaf from current foes England’s book when it comes to patient rebuilding.
“England after the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand: remember how badly things went for them there? They carefully identified and selected players they knew would be around four years on, and look at the fruits they got for that in winning the next one.
“We’ve got to do the same, show patience with people.
“Regarding Mark Boucher and Enoch Nkwe as the coaching panel, I would say nail them down for the entire next four-year cycle. Show faith in them, too.
“Boucher has been saying ‘blame me’ for some of the recent woes … but that’s wide of the mark. What we’ve seen happen was inevitable. It is just a low point of a cycle in the national team, and I really think the country must understand this.”
*South Africa’s Greatest Bowlers: Past and Present, by Ali Bacher and David Williams, is published by Penguin/Random House and available at leading bookstores.