South Africa captain Faf du Plessis rued a lack of vision that impeded phasing out of their great players as his side suffered a humiliating 0-3 whitewash against India.
South Africa could not pose a fight against a formidable Indian side, losing all the three matches by heavy margins. “A tour like this reveals that there’s a lot of mental scars that can happen, and then, obviously, it’s difficult to come out of that hole,” Du Plessis said after they conceded their heaviest defeat to India in the third Test at Ranchi.
“It’s just a relentless, ruthlessness the way they put big totals on the board every time. The effect it has on you mentally as a batting lineup, it takes a lot of energy and it takes a lot of toll and that’s why you could see towards the end that our batting was mentally weak. You don’t want to be mentally weak.”
Blaming Cricket South Africa, the visiting skipper further said the tour exposed the lack of planning as there was no succession plan after greats like Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers retired.
“It shows that our structures are not where they need to be,” Du Plessis said. “The gap between domestic cricket and International cricket...If you look back three or four years and if someone had the vision of saying, in three or four years’ time there will be a lot of inexperienced guys. A lot of 34, 35, 36 year olds could possible retire. So what do you do to make sure you get yourself ready for when that time comes?
“And possibly we are guilty of not planning or when these guys going at the same time. And now you’ve got to replace not only one player but four or five of your best players. Perhaps we could’ve been a little bit smarter in our planning phase, and phasing out the great players.”
Barring their first innings in the opening Test in Vizag, the Proteas never really troubled the hosts in the three-match Test series as their batting failed in every match.
At Vizag, Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock’s century-plus partnership helped them post 431 in reply to India’s 502/7 declared, but in Pune and Ranchi, they cut a sorry figure.
“We played our best match in the first Test and the consistent pressure that was on us made us weaker every Test match that we played. That therefore tells me that we’re not mentally strong enough as a team and that some work is required on that department.”
Having lost their last series in 2015 in spin-friendly conditions, South Africa also got a big jolt as it was the Indian pace battery which came up trumps despite the absence of spearhead Jasprit Bumrah.
During the 2015 series, Indian fast bowlers only picked up a total of eight wickets across the four Tests but this time, Umesh Yadav finished the series with 11 wickets with an average of 12.18, while Mohammed Shami took 13 at 14.76 apiece.
“They were spot-on. I thought the way the Indian seamers showed us how to bowl. The pace that they bowled, the consistency that they bowled, the skill that they showed, outclassed us as a fast bowling attack. There is learning for us in that when we playing the subcontinent that our style of bowling is not successful.”
Du Plessis said that his side also missed pace ace Dale Steyn. “We’ve had a very mature Test team for a while. All guys who played 30-40 Test matches, and now you look in the dressing room and it’s 5, 6, 7, 8 or 10 Test matches.”
Asked about the way forward, Du Plessis said they have to find the right people to build the side. “It’s a rebuilding phase. You have to start identifying characters that will drive the team forward. You look for personalities within a team that you see in 3-4-5-6 years to come. And then the process starts. It’s a tough place to start right at the beginning.
“The process will probably take a little bit longer. So for me, our next journey now is trying to make sure that we get a lot stronger as a cricketing team mentally. So if there’s work that needs to be done in that department, then so be it.”