A lot of people were left with a hangover after the World Cup final and it is taking a long time to get over it. Not the physical sort induced by champagne celebrations or commiserations, but an emotional hangover induced by the unprecedented unfairness of it all.
Eoin Morgan was the first of the players to admit, 48 hours after his team became world champions, that something “did not feel right” about the result. It surprised many thousands of people involved in the game at many levels but, interestingly, very little contradiction.
The final was the most dramatic ODI ever played, given the context, the tie and the Super Over. There was a widespread and understandable reluctance to admit that the result – and the manner in which it was reached – was deeply unsatisfactory. As was the deflection off Ben Stokes’ bat and the resultant umpiring error which cost New Zealand the title.
It may be taking longer than usual to get back into the swing of things, but we’ll all get there eventually. The consolation is that England are the best ODI team in the world and not undeserving World Cup winners. The pain and disappointment of not winning the trophy despite not being beaten in the final is very different to the dispiriting numbness created by the Proteas non-arrival at the tournament.
Several Proteas players are still processing what happened and considering their futures, including captain Faf du Plessis (who still has a year left on his national contract). But the ‘forgotten man’ of the squad has completed his recovery and repaired the mental scars.
“It was shit,” said Dale Steyn about having to return home with a shoulder injury before he could play a match. “Having to leave a World Cup like that was shit but maybe also a blessing because you can’t be playing at that level when you’re 70% fit. I tried, I wanted it badly, but it wasn’t meant to be,”
Steyn took three weeks off completely on his return “enjoying the Cape winter” and spending time on the beach with his dogs. It was medicine for the soul but his body, it seems, can only take so much rest and time away from the game.
“I still love it – I love playing. I even enjoyed the rehab and I’m loving bowling again. My next assignment is the Euro T20 Slam in August – I’m playing for the Glasgow Giants. But I’m just treating each stage of my career as an individual event at this stage, taking nothing for granted.”
There was talk before the World, not denied by him, that the tournament would signal the end of his ODI career. Perhaps also the end of T20 Internationals. “I love playing white ball cricket. If Cricket SA want me to play in the T20I series in India in October then I will be there in a flash.
“I’m still just as passionate about Test cricket as I always was and I hope to play plenty more series. I’ve bowled well in India in the past and then we have England coming on tour at the end of the year. If I’m fit and bowling well then I definitely hope to be considered.
“I need to manage my workload more than I used to but that doesn’t mean I can’t be effective and contribute to the team winning. I haven’t seen or spoken to anyone at CSA since the World Cup but hopefully I’ll get the chance to speak to the captain, coach and selectors at the Awards Dinner on August 3rd and we can take it from there, find out what their hopes and expectations are from me,” Steyn said.
“Shit” is a relative term, of course, but the energy is back with the irrepressible Dale Steyn and South African cricket needs as much help as it can get to rediscover its collective smile. In New Zealand, and even other corners of the cricket playing world, I suspect some people will take a lot longer to stop feeling shit.
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