In his long and illustrious career as a cricket administrator, Ali Bacher, has seen South African cricket come a long way.
As the South African players and the team management look for answers after failing to make it to the World Cup knock-out stage, Bacher, 77, — former chief of United Cricket Board — admits that the next couple of years would be tough for South African cricket.
In London on work, Bacher spoke to Sportstar on a range of issues…
This is for the first time since 2003 that South Africa has failed to make it to the World Cup knock-outs. What are your thoughts on the team’s dismal performance?
I predicted before we came here that we will have difficulty in reaching the semifinals. We had three great players — AB de Villiers, who, for whatever reasons, is not available. He is one of the greatest of all time in South Africa cricket. Hashim Amla is another great player. Two-three years ago, he was averaging 50 in ODIs. He is 36 now, so age is obviously catching up with him and he is not the same player as earlier. His career is coming to a halt.
Then, Dale Steyn, who in my opinion is our best-ever fast bowler. His career is also coming to an end, so you have lost those three players. You have a lot of younger players with potential but the problem is, they are inexperienced.
If you look at England, Australia — their players have been around for 100-120 matches. They are experienced and in the World Cup, you need that experience. South Africa hasn’t got that yet.
A lot has been spoken about how the young pacebowlers, Kagiso Rabada and Ngidi Lungihavefailed to make a mark in English conditions…
The potential match-winners — the two fast bowlers are very young. Kagiso Rabada, according to Dale Steyn, is our best-ever fast bowler. If you look at his record, he is close to 180 Test wickets, and he is just 24!
The problem with Rabada is, he is over-bowled. I spoke to him a few days ago and told him ‘you can’t carry on playing each and every match’. He looked a bit jaded against Pakistan.
The other kid, Ngidi, has just started. He has some injury problems, and you can see that while he is bowling. They are young, hardly 23-24. So, give them at least four years and they are going to be great players for South Africa.
With a group of senior players set to retire after the World Cup, how will the future be for South Africa?
It’s gloomy at the moment. In the next couple of years, we will have a tough time in international cricket. But if the selectors have faith in the young players, I think we will have a much stronger side before the next World Cup.
What are the factors that the selectors and the team management should keep in mind in the next couple of years?
We are going to have a tough time, but we have young talent. This kid, Aiden Markram, is young. He already has two Test centuries against Australia and I have seen him bat really well. He will probably be our next captain. He captained the U-19 team, which won the World Cup in 2014. He has the potential. He hasn't done well in the World Cup, but he will come through. The players need to stick as a team in the next couple of years.
Before the World Cup, the house looked divided over the comeback of AB de Villiers. Was the management right in not calling him back?
They made the right decision. I am a big supporter of AB de Villiers, but it doesn’t matter who you are — whether it is Don Bradman or Sachin Tendulkar — you cannot (make a choice) on whether or not to play. It destroys team spirit and you cannot do that. The team management did the right thing.
Even the coaching staff, led by Ottis Gibson, has failed to deliver. Do you think that South Africa should extend his contract, after it gets over in September? Or should it look for a new coach?
I don’t know whether he will carry on or not, but whether it is now or down the years, someone who can coach this team is Mark Boucher. He has been coaching the Titans for the last few years and has been very successful. At some stage in the future, I have no doubt that he will coach the South African team and will be successful.
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