Too many concerns, mistakes and aberrations to mention

Faf du Plessis has come in for a heap of criticism following his team’s performances in the World T20, and that’s a significant part of the territory of captaincy. No doubt he would concede that some of it is legitimate – just being captain makes it so – but some has been personal, irrelevant and unfair.

Like his team mates, Du Plessis prepared as diligently as he could and worked as hard as anyone in the tournament, harder than the majority, in truth. But the facts cannot be denied. The results could be tolerated in different circumstances, like when Brian Lara’s individual brilliance knocked South Africa out of the 1996 World Cup or when…err, that’s it as far as ICC events are concerned actually.

Otherwise there have been too many concerns, mistakes and aberrations to mention. Being outplayed by superior opposition is tolerable for players and supporters alike, provided both teams have performed somewhere close to their best, but failing to deliver anywhere close to a team’s best is galling. It makes defeat harder to swallow and empathy all but impossible to expect.

It may be a pointless exercise examining the particular components in the overall failure of the team in India, but answers do help the healing process for those left behind. Why and how did the bowling unit offer up 20 wides to England in their record chase of 230? It’s not a straightforward answer, no doubt, but if the bowlers were politicians they would be called before a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry to explain their behaviour. The Proteas middle order would be invited to appear before a similar hearing after their dismal collective effort against the West Indies in Nagpur, a ground they knew so well after last November’s dire Test defeat.

It’s easy and understandable for international cricketers, who train hard and sacrifice much, to be intolerant of ‘idiots’ who defame them. “What the hell do they know?” they ask with derision. Their answer is: “Not much, technically, but enough to know that other teams are bowling two wides per innings and we are bowling 20. And our head coach spoke before the tournament about ‘sticking to the basics’. Bowling straight is a pretty basic basic.”

It’s worth being clear about a few other basics. The bowlers lost the game against England and the batsmen lost the game against the West Indies. When Kagiso Rabada bowled a length delivery to Andre Russell in the final over defending just 10 runs, he did so as a necessary gamble. If the batsman had missed, he would almost certainly have cost his team the game. If he connected, it was game over for his team. But Rabada was in that position of Russian Roulette because he had been failed by the batsmen.

Enjoy the IPL. Many of our brightest stars will be involved. And recover from the disappointment of this. There’s always the next one to look forward to.

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