How often do we witness a team go from a 190-run victory to a 243-run defeat in the space of a week?
Well, in short, that is the reality that the Proteas had to endure this week in India as their journey at the Cricket World Cup continued. The Proteas were handed a humbling defeat by hosts India at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday, just three days after decimating the 2015 and 2019 runners-up New Zealand in Pune.
The defeat was a reminder of the nature of this particular South African team – a team with extreme highs and distressing lows. From smashing a record-breaking 428 to sinking to 83 all out, the Proteas have produced a mixed bag of performances in one tournament.
“To be fair, (it was) just a day that we were out-skilled, really,” head coach Rob Walter said in reflecting on Sunday’s loss to India.
“I don’t want to look too far or too more deeply into it than that.”
Tough day at the office
Talking about off days, the 23-year-old all-rounder Marco Jansen endured a tough day on the park at Eden Gardens where he returned a sorry 1/94 in his 9.4 overs. This is after the left-arm fast bowler obliterated the Black Caps earlier in the week, returning a stunning 3/31 in eight overs.
Said Walter: “We know already what Jansen can do with a new ball. (Sunday) was an off day. The guy’s a young guy playing in a World Cup.
“He’s played seven excellent games. He didn’t have a great start (on Sunday) and could just as easily bowl very well the next time.
“This game is a funny game and you get taught new lessons every single day and get surprised every single day. So, it wouldn’t surprise me if the tables turned the next time around.
“The beauty of it is that there may well be another shot for us and we’ve been given an opportunity to learn from that.”
Looking at the bigger picture
As a coach, when you have a team with a talent of the calibre of Jansen, a talent that knows no bounds but is also rough on the edges, you require patience that stems from understanding the team’s bigger picture.
Walter is laser-focused on the bigger picture, believing that Jansen and his teammates will come right having experienced Sunday’s disappointment.
“To be honest, it’s a gift, isn’t it? Being able to run out in front of 75 000 in a game like today and so many learning opportunities out there,” said Walter.
“Fortunately for us, it wasn’t a must-win fixture. It was just an opportunity to play against a really good team and yes, he (Jansen) struggled today but as I said, he’s got the skill set to bounce back and be effective the next time around.
“And what he does have now is the value of having already run out, competed, felt what it’s like to be in a cauldron with 70 000 people cheering against you.
“You’ll have that as experience that’s invaluable. You can’t get that anywhere else but here.”
The Proteas have Afghanistan in their sights this coming Friday and will be looking to finish the round-robin stage how they started it – with resounding success.