Jonty Rhodes: South Africa didn't know best XI, didn't have plan B

The former South African cricketer says a team is in trouble if it hasn't finalised its playing XI.

The former cricketer has questioned South Africa's preparedness for the quadrennial tournament.   -  Getty Images

South Africa neither knew its best playing XI nor had a plan B for challenging situations and it was hardly a surprise that its World Cup campaign became a series of disasters, said Jonty Rhodes in a scathing review of the team’s performance.

It is only the second time that South Africa, which still has one league game to play before boarding the flight back home, have not made it to the knock-out stages of the World Cup.

“When I was asked a month ago when they started their campaign. The only thing that was going in their favour was no one was expecting much from them. Their last 12 months have not been pretty with regards to their domestic results or the international results and they did not know their best eleven,” Rhodes told PTI here in an interview on Sunday.

“So when you go to a World Cup, and you have still not finalised your eleven, I think you are in trouble. They were generously ranked three or four at the start of the World Cup but probably played as per their strength on paper,” he said on the sidelines of an event organised by ICC’s beer partner Bira 91.

Rhodes, who played 52 Tests and 245 ODIs and is one of the best fielders to have played the game, said South Africa also paid the price for not having an alternate plan for tough situations.

“In a World Cup you have to convert your 40s and 60s into hundreds. We did not do that. We did not really have a Plan B.

“Plan A was to bowl fast, bowl teams out but England has two summers. One gives you cold and swinging conditions, the other is flat and hot. I think we just went there hoping to bowl people out with sheer pace. There are some good players and they are not going to succumb to short-pitched bowling on good wickets.”

Read: 'Loss to India was the turning point for us'

The 49-year-old also had a lot to say on AB de Villiers wanting to make an international comeback with the World Cup after announcing a shock retirement last year. Cricket South Africa did not accept him back in the team but the entire episode triggered a massive controversy in the middle of the team’s struggling World Cup campaign.

“You can’t replace ABD and you can’t accept him back in the last moment. He has been retired for a year so you can’t (have him back). I am a big fan of ABD and someone who is wanting South Africa to do well, it would be amazing to have him in the team but the team needs more than one player to do well and that is where India have been really impressive.

“With no ABD in South Africa’s preparation over the last 12 months, it would be a big ask to include him in the 11th hour. Disappointed that he did not play. Sad that he retired when he did but he is an international player who has had a fantastic career. It would not have been right for him to play having retired for almost a year,” said Rhodes.

South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock had recently rated the IPL final with Mumbai Indians as the most emotional game of his career.

Asked if South Africa players have got their priorities misplaced, Rhodes came to de Kock’s defense.

“He has not won a World Cup. So he is talking about a stage in front of 35,000 people, probably a billion watching around the world. So from that point of view I can understand where he is coming from.

“South Africa have not been in a World Cup final. From his point of view it (IPL final) is the biggest game he has played. Our cricketers don’t take anything lightly. We have a history with the World Cup and we want to settle that and you can only do that by winning it. If he would have won a World Cup final there is no way he would have chosen IPL final over it.”

Picking India and Australia as the 2019 World Cup finalists, Rhodes said the Indian team has transformed itself in all departments.

“It is not just about their fielding, it is about their fitness and agility and that comes from their captain. (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni was instrumental in turning that around as a powerful player himself and now you have Virat (Kohli) setting the standards himself and insisting everyone be a part of it.”