South Africa have just suffered one of their worst hangovers after their successful summer at home, a 2-0 whitewash against Sri Lanka.
That was the Proteas’ last Test series until Pakistan reach their shores in mid-December 2018 for a 3 Test series, followed by a two-Test series at home against Sri Lanka.
The focus now will be on the one-day format of the game, as the world prepares for the Cricket World Cup, which will be held in England next summer.
Now, I know the World Cup is important, but something Proteas’ Head Coach, Ottis Gibson and Captain, Faf du Plessis must remember, is that the World Test Championship begins immediately after the conclusion of the World Cup next year.
South Africa’s first series in the Test Championship is touring India.
A recent stat by ESPN Cricinfo, showcased in worrying fashion South Africa’s decline when touring the subcontinent.
They were once known to be the side with the best away record, but now, with only one century in 6 Tests since November 2015 and no Test match wins, that record is but a distant memory.
To give you an idea of how good the Proteas were in the subcontinent prior to 2015, from October 2007 til October 2015, South Africa played 17 Tests, won 7, and had 26 centuries.
Those were the good old days.
There have been some very notable omissions for their side however in this time. The retirements of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and most recently, AB de Villiers have left South Africa with a heavily depleted batting line up.
That being said, they have two of the best players of spin in their playing XI, in Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis. It has been well documented that their batting in Sri Lanka was extremely below-par and this is a problem.
If South Africa are to get back to winning ways in the subcontinent, they need to seriously think about what their issues are.
The biggest issue for me, is the batting.
If the batting is rectified, and the top order start scoring runs again, South Africa hopefully won’t be bowled out in one session. This could then also dismiss the notion of removing the toss from Test cricket. Win-Win.
I have the hope that the coaching staff will have learned some very valuable lessons during the Sri Lankan tour and will realise what they need to do in the future.
They need to do what is best for the team, if they know they do not have the skill-set to adequately train the players and prepare them for a tour of the subcontinent, they need to find someone who can.
All the responsibility does not fall on the coaching staff though, players have to take the initiative and improve their own game too.
Dean Elgar for instance does not feature in the limited overs format, he is solely a Test player. He could, and should spend the next year making sure his skills against spin improve. He didn’t face a single delivery from a seam bowler in the Test series against Sri Lanka, he can expect the same thing from India too. He will have to find a way to deal with this.
We know that the bowlers went on a spin camp to India prior to the Test series against Sri Lanka, but why didn’t the batsmen? Perhaps this is something they should look to do in the future. The only way the batsmen will learn how to bat in spin-friendly conditions, is to play in spin-friendly conditions.
With the World Cup less than a year away, Cricket South Africa will have to be careful about their priorities. Yes the World Cup is important but they cannot forget about Test Cricket.