South Africa
CSA has made it mandatory for its players to take the knee. (Image: Twitter)

South Africa have failed to compete for the major honours on the international scene despite boasting a number of great individuals in their ranks. Even with Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn in their squad, the Proteas failed to produce under the spotlight of the top tournaments, not even advancing the to the finals of the Cricket World Cup or the World T20. South Africa also finished in fifth place in the World Test Championship, losing eight of their 13 matches.

De Kock Issues

In the post-Smith era, the Proteas have struggled for leadership on and off the field. Quinton de Kock hit the headlines by withdrawing from their clash against the West Indies in the ICC T20 World Cup in 2021, which undermined South Africa’s hopes. It was disappointing considering that under the captaincy of Temba Bavuma, South Africa had displayed an improvement in their form in the shortest format of the game. Bavuma led his team to a series victory over the West Indies along with Sri Lanka and Ireland. After a defeat against Australia in their opening match of the ICC T20 World Cup, the Proteas rallied without De Kock to beat the Windies before dispatching Sri Lanka as well.

A feeling of unity in the squad has always been a key part of South Africa’s identity. When the Proteas have operated at the peak of their powers, it has been courtesy of a talented but cohesive team. Smith ensured that the Proteas was not only skilled with bat and ball in hand, but together on the field and combative against their opponents. As covered in detail by Betway, life inside a bubble has brought the South Africa players closer together in their preparation for the 2021 World Cup, and it will be curious to see whether they can sustain the ethos pushing forward into further tournaments. It has arguably cost them in the past, so it must be a core component of their team-building under Bavuma’s reign.

Unity Under Threat

De Kock has threatened to fracture that unity, although Bavuma is an outstanding leader on the field and will not be deterred. The performances of De Kock were not of the standard expected of a player of his calibre on the field as he was struggling to fire against Australia in their opener. The 28-year-old also struggled with the responsibility of leading the team during his tenure as captain. South Africa are no longer blessed with deep stock of talent in their ranks, but a talented player causing a stir and underperforming on the field is a major quandary for the selectors.

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It could be a similar case to England and Kevin Pietersen, when the talented right-hander was sacked from the team after their Ashes defeat in 2014 after previously falling foul of the hierarchy two years earlier. All sides across the world require talent in the ranks and De Kock is an exceptional batsman and wicket-keeper, but when it comes at the cost of unity and togetherness in a squad, especially in times of a bubble it can be a greater detriment to have him in the squad rather than on the sidelines.

If Bavuma, and his counterpart Dean Elgar at Test level, wish to build a team rather than a talented clutch of individuals then tough decisions will have to be made in the short term and the long term. De Kock is not the first player to have issues and will certainly not be the last.