- Proteas coach Mark Boucher has stressed the importance of forging ahead with the team’s new vision.
- Cricket South Africa is hard at work finalising dates for both the domestic and international seasons.
- Boucher says it was vital for the Proteas “to create a new identity” at a recent culture camp.
Proteas coach Mark Boucher has emphasised the importance of his young team forging ahead with their new vision when they return to action.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) is hard at work finalising dates for both the domestic and international seasons after more than six months of inactivity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 2019/20 campaign was prematurely ended in March when the virus forced Boucher and his charges to cut short their limited overs tour to India, whilst local cricket also ended abruptly a few days later.
The only chance the Proteas got at getting together was at a culture camp in Skukuza last month.
“It’s been interesting times for everyone,” the national coach said via a CSA statement. “We were always meant to have a bit of a break… but no one thought in their wildest dreams that it would be this long, so to have all the guys in one place at the same time was really nice, just to catch up.”
The former Proteas wicketkeeper said the camp was key for him and his assistant Enoch Nkwe to help forge a new identity for the young squad.
“It was important for this team to create a new identity. It [just] happened a little bit later than expected,” Boucher continued. “It was good to have a deeper squad as well, I haven’t really been given the opportunity to meet a lot of them personally so it was really nice to catch up with them – see a couple of new faces and see a couple of old faces, spend a bit of time together and get into the nitty-gritties about where we want to go as a team.”
Boucher and Nkwe are confident that the next generation of Proteas will grow and mature quickly.
“The one thing about the way myself and Enoch 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.”
The Proteas Test squad has lost a significant number of experienced players in the recent past, with the likes of Hashim Amla, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, JP Duminy and Dale Steyn all retiring. They have dropped to sixth in the ICC Test rankings and are ranked fifth in the two white-ball formats.
Boucher says he wants to see an improvement in the team’s global standing.
“It’s all about performance and that’s key for me,” he explained. “We don’t want to be a nice group of guys and be eighth in the world. I’d rather be a challenging group of guys and be competing for the number one spot and they all want that as well which is great to hear. We’re all aligned in the right direction, and although it’s all still words, we still need to go out there and try and live it, rather than have it be words coming out of our mouths. I’m happy that the players are happy, but now the hard work starts.
“We want to get on the field and start playing. It’s been a long break, I don’t think the players have had this long a break since school days. Although they’ve been practicing, you (as a coach) want to put that practice into match experience. A few guys have moved over to the IPL, so they’ll be happy that they’ll get some game time.”
With the country dropping down to lockdown Level 1 from this week, a return to cricket within the boundaries of South Africa appears to be in sight.
Boucher continued: “My biggest hope for the national team when we do get back to playing again is that we really drive the vision that they’ve (the players) put out for themselves. I do believe that we’ve got the talent to do that and if we play in that sort of way, I have no doubt that there’s going to be success.
“We’re going to make some mistakes – we’re a young team – but as long as we keep learning from those mistakes, we will become a better unit. The players are keen to try something different in order to get different results, especially when we go to big tournaments.”
– Compiled by Sport24 staff
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