JOHANNESBURG – When the South African men’s team eventually returns to the crease, it will be with a renewed identity and with the hope of implementing a new philosophy.
It’s the Proteas that must once again save SA cricket from it’s winter of discontent. The mayhem caused by Cricket SA’s administration remains the dominant theme in the game and the clean up that that organisation so desperately needs will take many months.
In the meanwhile the players are weeks away from starting the 2020-21 season, and the Proteas men’s head coach, Mark Boucher, wants to turn the public’s focus away from forensic reports, firings and court cases and back to what matters.
“We don’t have to sugar-coat what’s been going on in the game in this country and what’s been hogging the headlines,” said Boucher. “The best thing for the game in this country is for our biggest asset, the players, to get out there and get some headlines going about some good things.
“Hopefully we can get back on the field soon. It’s not just for the players, but I’m sure for the public as well, because ultimately that’s what we do enjoy and love and let the game of cricket do the talking rather than other things.”
CSA will likely make an announcement this week about when the season will start. It will be a reduced one owing in part to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some loose ends must still be tied up around which teams will tour here. England will be in the country in November for a couple of white-ball series which will provide a much needed boon for CSA’s coffers.
Before then, SA’s players would like to get some proper game time under their belts. A handful of SA’s top stars have gotten their competitive juices flowing in the IPL, but for those not lucky enough to scored a lucrative contract there, it will be domestic limited-overs competitions where the last few months of practice needs to be applied in a match situation.
As has been the case with many of the players who have spoken about the culture camp held in Skukuza recently, Boucher too voiced his optimism about what those four days meant for the team and for him as the coach.
“The way myself and Enoch (Nkwe, the Proteas’ assistant coach) want to try and drive this team is to have players take ownership and responsibility for their team. We had really good mediators who came in.
“It wasn’t about the management; it was really about the players getting a couple of things off their chests and being open and honest. There were some really difficult topics at times, but for me it showed that we as a team might be young, but we are growing quickly,” he said.
“The bottom line is, I wanted to get guys talking about some difficult topics so that they walked away with a good understanding of where they were going in the future and come up with solutions for how we become a better team performance wise.
“We don’t want to be a nice group of guys and be eight in the world. I’d rather be a challenging group of guys and be competing for the No 1 spot.”
For Boucher, who in his playing days was attached to a clique of players who were accused of running the national team at one point, the four days in Skukuza, proved eye opening on a personal level.
“As a coach I came out of that camp with a completely different understanding of where each player was. The four or five different cultures in the team, allowed me, just by listening, to educate myself about a few different things, that I’d never thought about before,” Boucher said.