Proteas captain Faf du Plessis. Picture: Stu Forster-IDI/IDI via Getty Images
Proteas captain Faf du Plessis. Picture: Stu Forster-IDI/IDI via Getty Images

In this space last week, the FM debated, both practically and philosophically, the worth of a point at the Cricket World Cup.

The point in question was the single point the Proteas gained from the rained-out game against the West Indies. At the time it was accepted gleefully as a point gained, but we might come to rue it as a point lost.

Compared to the dire situation the Proteas found themselves in last week, they’re in a better place now. They bagged their first two points of the tournament against Afghanistan in Cardiff on Saturday, beating them by nine wickets and moving to seventh before being bumped to eighth (ahead of Pakistan and Afghanistan) after Bangladesh beat the Windies on Monday.

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So what did the win against Afghanistan tell us? Well, in watching Hashim Amla labour to 41 not out (off 83 balls) we again became aware that he is not so much a shadow of his former self as an outline of it. Amla’s lack of form is transferring even greater pressure onto his opening partner, Quinton de Kock, which, in turn, is placing undue pressure on an already burdened upper order.

We might well arrive at a situation before long where team management consider a makeshift opener. David Miller would appear to be the most likely candidate, but this is not a management team renowned for its bravery, so odds are that Amla will probably hang on.

While Amla isn’t proving to be of much use to his country, he can sleep peacefully in the knowledge that he’s providing yeoman service as grist for the social media mill. While his exclusion from the World Cup squad would have been extremely difficult for a player of his standing, other aspects of the selection policy are fast beginning to look empty-headed.

First, given that Amla’s scratching around has been a feature of the season, might it not have been prudent to pick another frontline batsman like Reeza Hendricks rather than a bowler or an all-rounder? Dwaine Pretorius (all-rounder) has played no part since the England game, and Tabraiz Shamsi (bowler) has been similarly marginalised. Adding to the confusion is the role played by Chris Morris, who wasn’t chosen in the initial squad.

Morris was called up when Anrich Nortje, a fast bowler, fractured his thumb, and has since proved invaluable. He scored a breezy 42 (34 balls) against India, following it up with an excellent spell of 10-3-36-1, in which he caught-and-bowled the dangerous MS Dhoni.

Morris the mercurial is a difficult player to watch. He is as capable of leaking 70-odd runs in his 10 overs as he is of keeping matters within manageable proportions. Given that he wasn’t picked in the first place, and Pretorius and JP Duminy were, what on earth is he now doing leapfrogging both?

Questions need to be asked of the chair, Linda Zondi, and his selection panel.

The rot goes far deeper. Consider the England example. A couple of seasons ago, Alastair Cook was still playing ODI cricket for his country, as were Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson. Cook is a 10,000 Test runs man, a legend of the game, but flair isn’t his middle name. Several former England players, notably Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann, became increasingly vocal in their criticism of England’s approach to limited-overs cricket.

The criticism was heeded. Jason Roy and Alex Hales were brought along; Adil Rashid and Chris Woakes were persevered with. England reinvented themselves as a dynamic, swashbuckling side, and regularly score over 300 runs per innings. Now they might even go on to win the final.

SA, meanwhile, were fiddling with race quotas, playing old-fashioned ODI cricket, and losing players to Kolpak.

How useful it would be to rely on, say, a Rilee Rossouw now? Or a Simon Harmer or, in these injury-prone times for fast bowlers, a Duanne Olivier. Fat chance.

And we wonder why attendances are plummeting, fans are jaundiced and sponsors are fleeing. Standard Bank must be wondering why it continues to sponsor a national team so patently committed to mediocrity.