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What's really motivating the Proteas nowadays?

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South_Africa_Bangladesh_series_Test_ODI_T20I_cricketThe 2015 Cricket World Cup was just another in a long line of crippling disappointments for the South African cricket team. Like all the ones before it, it was a disappointment that you can’t ever get used to, and all you can do in the aftermath, both as player and fan, is just try to move on.

Not the hardest thing really. The Proteas still have the no.1 ranked Test cricket team, and a tour of Bangladesh to get the confidence back.

This was the general feeling four months ago. Fast forward to today, and the spirits have dropped again. No, they haven’t just spooned another trophy opportunity; but they have given South African fans a pretty sobering visual of a team in transition, one that may struggle somewhat in the coming 12 months and possibly beyond.

Currently struggling in Bangladesh, the question has to be asked - What is really motivating the Proteas nowadays?”

It’s a question we all need to come to terms with when considering this team going forward, so let me elaborate.

The World Cup curse

Let’s call it what it is: there is a very real problem here in this tournament. The fact that a nation as talented and resource heavy as South Africa still has nothing to show from numerous promising campaigns means the players feel indifferently towards the World Cup.

Knowing that your best is just not good enough, time and time again, will play on your mind, and that goes for players past and in the future.

Well and truly into the post-post-isolation period

South Africans are very emotional people; a troubled political past will do this to you. Having to prove themselves to the rest of the world post-isolation from 1992 onwards was a big driving factor from the start with the modern teams, one that was taken further with the spirit of Nelson Mandela, and bouncing back from Hansie with the Graeme Smith era.

Today, South Africa is just another country. The back story expired with Mandela, and the Proteas are just another team. Now politicians and administrators are just remorseless thieves, relentlessly tarnishing the fibre of the country and everything it stands for – the fairytale is well and truly done.

The guys are just playing like everyone else; there is no longer a greater cause or inspiration. No special something.

Quota issues

The quota issue of ensuring that more non-white players are guaranteed selection in national teams has naturally been a disruptive element. It is one big grey area that nobody wants to formalise, yet everyone has to adhere to. Right or wrong, it’s a smouldering topic that only leads to fighting, and the whole issue of Kyle Abbott being dropped on the morning of the 2015 World Cup semi-final serves to prove this.

A different breed of senior player

When you think of the modern greats like Kallis, Boucher, Pollock, Smith and Ntini, they gave their all to the cause. Nowadays players seem to ‘prioritise’ their game time and benefit from strategic resting, but who can blame them? With increased earnings, the guys now have real lives off the field; so much so that you have to wonder how committed to the game they can really be, with newfound balance and perspective.

They also don’t really care too much about the records, and being the best at this or that. Those days are kinda over, just brought into the spotlight from time to time by desperate journalists and blogger people.

Not a big three player

India, Australia and England have cut a divide in the game by saying, essentially, they are better than everyone else. They say this ‘Big 3’ thing won’t see the other teams lose out, but I think we all know that is bullshit.

South Africa just won’t play the bigger nations enough going forward, and frankly haven’t played them enough for the past few years already. The rivalries are being watered down through lack of frequency, the big head to heads aren’t happening, and when they do they are taking place in the bloody IPL where they don’t count.

India has the IPL and the odd tour that interests them here and there. England and Australia have the Ashes. What big occasion does South Africa have in world cricket? The answer is nothing really, just a series here and there and a disappointing World Cup every four years.

Star players seldom make star captains

Say what you want about Graeme Smith, but the guy was an exceptional leader. He wasn’t there to make friends, be the best player or leave the game with a fancy average - he was there to beat people and would get the most out of his players in order to do so.

He created the all important pillar of universal strength in the team. Since he has retired, it has been lacking. Both Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers are better cricketers than Smith could ever have hoped to be, but star players don’t necessarily make star captains. In fact, everything that makes them mercurial players could actually count against them in the role of captain.

Eventually, they end up taking too much pressure on themselves, and that could lead to dire consequences. Amla and AB could well become tremendous captains in their own ways, but they need to learn how to do so, and the players around them need to adapt accordingly.

So, what’s really motivating the Proteas nowadays?

Naturally, the will to win as a professional is the short answer. But there always needs to be more, to reach the higher levels expected of a team like South Africa.

As a fan, I just hope they can find what is needed to get them back up and stay there in a bold new era.



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Ben Karpinski is a South African sports blogger/MC/tweeter with a heart so broken by the Proteas, t...

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