5 festive season wishes for Proteas ahead of Sri Lanka series

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Mark Boucher (Gallo)
Mark Boucher (Gallo)

There is no doubt that 2020 has been the most challenging of years for almost everyone due to the relentless coronavirus, but it has also been a disaster for Cricket South Africa (CSA) off the field.

The administrative chaos that has engulfed the organisation over the last 12 months has left many fans of the game fed up and it is no exaggeration that public confidence in the product is at an all-time low.  

The interim board under the leadership of Judge Zak Yacoob is attempting a clean-up of epic proportions, but the fear is that the damage is done.

Now, in this the most unique of festive seasons, the Proteas have an opportunity to give South Africans something to celebrate in the weeks ahead. 

A two-Test series against Sri Lanka gets underway on Boxing Day at Centurion and it is a big one for coach Mark Boucher and his men. 

This is only Boucher's second Test series since taking over as head coach this time, last year and the Proteas are desperate to return to winning ways. 

In the spirit of the festive season, we thought this a good time to look at FIVE wishes that Boucher and his charges could do with seeing come true in the series.

1. Win 

Skipper Quinton de Kock said this week that the Proteas were looking to win the series "convincingly" in an effort to rectify the 2-0 home series loss they suffered against Sri Lanka last year. 

That goes without saying, but in the Proteas' case, winning this series is imperative to start restoring some faith and pride into the national jersey. 

You have to go back all the way to 2018/19 - two years ago - to find the last time the Proteas won a Test series and that came against Pakistan on home soil. 

Since then, the Proteas have lost series to Sri Lanka (home), India (away) and England (home).

This is not about revenge, but the fact of the matter is that if South Africa wants to be considered a giant of the global game once again, then losing Test series at home to Sri Lanka will never be acceptable.

The new era of aggressive, smart cricket that the Proteas are looking to implement under Boucher needs to start here with wins in Pretoria and Johannesburg. 

Just win.  

2. Markram making merry

A year ago, I compiled a wish list heading into the England Test series and this is a relative copy and paste of one of the items back then.

Now 26, this series will signify the next chapter in what has been an often frustrating international career for Markram so far. 

Injuries have played their part in that frustration, but Markram will be the first to acknowledge that he has not won as many games and series for his country as he would have liked to over the years. 

There has been so much hype surrounding this rare talent ever since he captained the SA U-19s to World Cup victory back in 2014, and his form in domestic cricket this year has proved for the umpteenth time that he is too good for that level. 

The Proteas now need him to deliver those majestic, massive innings on the international stage. 

There is absolutely no doubt that the ability is there, and Markram now has the perfect platform to launch the next phase of his Proteas journey. 

3. Youngsters hit ground running

It is difficult to know how many of them will feature over the next two Tests, but the Proteas have several fresh faces in their squad for this series. 

Glenton Stuurman, Raynard van Tonder, Kyle Verreynne, Sarel Erwee, Migael Pretorius and Lutho Sipamla are all uncapped while allrounder Wiaan Mulder has played just one Test. 

That is a significant chunk of inexperience for the hosts but, as De Kock pointed out on Monday, it also means that there are many players in the group who will not be scarred by that historic series loss to Sri Lanka last time out. 

Stuurman and Van Tonder, in particular, have arrived incredibly highly rated.

With Beuran Hendricks not in the revised squad sent out on Tuesday, there could now be a debut for the 28-year-old Stuurman, who has been compared to the great Vernon Philander by critics given his control and accuracy. 

Including so many youngsters in such an important series is a real test of the depth that exists in the South African structures and Boucher will hope that the returns are encouraging. 

4. Nortje, Ngidi unleashed

Kagiso Rabada's absence is obviously a huge loss for the South Africans, but it does open the door for speedster Anrich Nortje to be the main man in this attack. 

With just six Tests to his name, the 27-year-old is by no means a tried and tested cog in the Proteas bowling machine, but over the last year-and-a-half he has climbed the ranks and is now considered one of his country's most valuable weapons in all formats.

With both matches taking place on the Highveld, the hope is that the wickets at Centurion and the Wanderers will provide some assistance to a bowler on Nortje's raw pace. 

In 2018/19, Duanne Olivier's fast, aggressive approach had the travelling Pakistan batsmen all at sea as South Africa cruised to a 3-0 series win and the hope is that Nortje can have a similar impact. 

It is also an important series for Lungi Ngidi, who has the pace but needs to perhaps show that he has the consistency to operate successfully in the game's longest format.  

5. Hitting coronavirus for six

This is as important as anything that happens on the field. 

Australia are due to tour South Africa over February and March next year and they will only come if the safety of their players can be guaranteed. 

After several coronavirus scares from within their Cape Town bio-bubble/hotel environment, the Proteas' ODI series against England this month was scrapped without a ball being bowled. 

There are obviously factors that cannot be controlled, but CSA needs this two-Test series to take place without any such issues unfolding again. 

Both Sri Lanka and South Africa are staying in the same Centurion hotel for the duration of the series and it is understood that the safety measures being implemented are significantly stricter than they were during England's visit. 

The Proteas returned a full round of negative test results on Tuesday from within the biologically safe environment, so hopefully it stays that way.  

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