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South Africa passes the baton to the next generation

Nine of South Africa’s 15 men’s World Cup players are likely to complete their international careers without a trophy to show for their talent, skill, experience, and hard work.

Rassie van der Dussen, the squad’s oldest player, is 34 years old, while David Miller and Reeza Hendricks are only a few months younger. Temba Bavuma, Keshav Maharaj, and Tabraiz Shamsi are all 33 years old. Heinrich Klaasen is 32 years old, while Quinton de Kock and Lizaad Williams are 30. None of those players are likely to make the squad when South Africa hosts the tournament in 2027.

De Kock has already retired his bat and gloves. He declared his retirement from One-Day Internationals (ODIs) prior to the competition. South Africa was no longer a contender for the World Cup. That occurred on Thursday, when Australia defeated India by three wickets with 16 balls to spare.

This generation of South Africans is not unique in that their country has never won a World Cup. However, they distinguished themselves from others on Thursday by losing to a squad that performed better than they did. They did not disintegrate inexplicably, as some other South African teams have in comparable circumstances.

However, Gerald Coetzee and Marco Jansen, both 23 and playing in their first World Cup, are included in the team. Aiden Markram is 29, Kagiso Rabada is 28, while Lungi Ngidi and Andile Phehlukwayo are all 27 years old.

How would Rob Walter, the father figure in the locker room despite being on the younger side for a coach at 48, ensure that the positive aspects of Thursday’s performance were successfully transferred from the senior to the more junior members of the squad in what was, as he stated in a press conference, an abjectly disappointed locker room?

“Thank goodness I don’t have to be Quinny’s father figure anymore; that’s a bonus,” Walter said with a laugh. “When you consider what we’ve created and experienced together here, World Cups are where you spend a lot of time together.” They differ from bilateral series, and I hope that if you question everyone about their experiences, they would agree that this was a remarkable one.

“The more memorable those moments are, the tighter we are as a unit, and the more excited the guys get about their cricket, the more excited they get.” We’ve seen some incredible cricket, which has probably surprised a lot of people in this room and throughout the world. That is what drives them to return and improve.

“I’m ecstatic. I believe we have a lot of room to improve as a team and perform even better than we have. And the vast majority of those who will go on their journey are still in that changing room.”

Rabada, for example, although being one of the squad’s younger members, has played 60 Tests, 101 ODIs, and 56 T20Is and is a key element of the attack. His significance to the cause was highlighted by his partial omission on Thursday, when he was unable to bowl his final four overs due to a sore heel.

“That’s why we didn’t see as much of him in the contest as we would have expected,” he remarked. “In his comeback spell, he just wasn’t able to deliver at 100%.” A fit and able ‘KG’ has demonstrated during this competition that he is and has been one of our top bowlers for some time. That was unfortunate. But I don’t think that was a game-changing event.”

South Africa advanced to the semi-finals by winning seven of their nine league games, surprising critics who did not believe they were among the favorites. Their batters hit nine centuries, which was more than any other team in the competition. Coetzee’s 20 wickets are the most ever taken by a South African bowler in a World Cup, and Keshav Maharaj climbed to the top of the ODI bowling rankings during the tournament.

“It’s heartbreaking to lose a semifinal, but I’m extremely proud of the lads’ fight.” The first 12 overs of batting this afternoon were quite difficult. And, in the end, I believe that is what differentiated the teams.”

South Africa had won all five of their previous games in which they batted first, and they did it again on Thursday after Temba Bavuma won the toss, only to run into Australia’s top new-ball combo, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, in seaming conditions. They fell to 18/2 in the powerplay, their lowest score in the first ten overs in an ODI since 2008, but rallied to 212, with Miller scoring 101 off 116. They restricted Australia to 137/5 and 193/7, but it wasn’t enough to win the match. Nonetheless, it was not a choke.

“For me a choke is losing a game that you’re in a position to win,” he remarked. “In this case, we were behind the eight-ball from the start, but we fought our way back and put up a score that gave us a chance.” Then they took off like a rocket, and we clawed our way back into the game. There’s nothing slightly resembling the choke that occurred today. It was a tense match between two good teams, ranked second and third in the tournament.”

Walter defended Temba Bavuma’s selection despite the fact that South Africa’s captain was not entirely fit due to a hamstring strain: “If you looked at him in the field and didn’t know that he wasn’t 100%, you wouldn’t have guessed.” To be fair, I believe he was close to 100%.

“From a batting standpoint, we were confident he’d be able to go bat properly, run between the wickets properly, and if anything, he might not have had the intensity in the field in terms of chasing balls down that he normally would have.”

“He was weighing that against his presence on the field as captain.” That surpasses everything for me every time; having his leadership and presence on the field is everything. We discussed it. ‘I’m not 100%, but I can absolutely play, and I want to be on the field,’ he said.

That concludes the conversation. “I wholeheartedly support him.”

Walter predicted that India would beat Australia in Sunday’s final in Ahmedabad.

“To be honest, I have a 1% chance of watching.” And, to be completely honest, I don’t care.

“It’s always exciting for the home team to win the World Cup.” But I have a lot of pals in the Australian locker room, so I have a soft spot for a couple of them, particularly the coach [Andrew McDonald].

“However, given our performance against India [at Eden Gardens] and the tremendous support that has gathered around the team, as well as the great hope and inspiration that winning a World Cup at home brings, it would only be fitting for India to win.” At the same time, they’ve been the best team in the competition and played the best cricket…

“…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what will happen.”


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