South Africa may have suffered more Cricket World Cup semi-final heartache but coach Rob Walter believes they have laid a platform for the future with a core group of players after exceeding expectations at the most recent tournament in India.
Poor starts with the bat and ball cost the side in their tense three wicket defeat to old foes Australia on Thursday - the fifth time they have exited a World Cup in the semi-finals.
South Africa will co-host the next 50-over finals with Namibia and Zimbabwe in 2027 and Walter believes there is much room for optimism they can improve further having arrived in India under the radar and with little expectation of success.
“I’m excited,” he told reporters. “There’s huge scope for us to grow as a team and to play even better than we have. The majority of the people that are going to be on the journey (to the next World Cup) are still in the changing room.
“We’ve seen young guys at the end of the tournament with less than 15 games to their name stand up and really dominate in certain phases for the team. Different people putting their hands up throughout the competition.”
Wicketkeeper-batter Quinton de Kock announced he would retire from the 50-over format before the tournament started, while 2027 may be too far off for 34-year-old batters David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen, the core of the group should remain.
“We’ve seen guys play unbelievable cricket that probably surprised a lot of people in this (media) room and around the world. I think that is what fuels them to come back and be better,” Walter said.
Former South Africa fast bowler Dale Steyn, who lost in the semi-finals in 2015, also believes there is cause for optimism.
“If you look at the stats overall, South Africa will walk away and say they ticked all the boxes they wanted to, but they just didn’t get over the line,” he told CricInfo.
“There will be some question-marks, but overall they were fantastic. I didn’t think they would make the semi-finals when (fast bowler) Anrich Nortje was injured.”
Too nice? That’s the New
Zealand way, says MitchellNew Zealand batsman Daryl Mitchell has rejected criticism of the Black Caps for coming to the aid of India’s Virat Kohli during Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final loss, saying the team took great pride in the way they went about the game. Several New Zealanders checked on Kohli and helped him stretch his hamstrings when he went down with cramps while scoring a century to help India romp to a 70-run victory at the Wankhede Stadium and a place in tomorrow’s final.
Former Australia all-rounder Simon O’Donnell slammed the Black Caps for their lack of competitive instinct but Mitchell, who scored a 119-ball 134 in New Zealand’s response, said the approach would not change.
“I think that’s something we really pride ourselves on as Black Caps and as New Zealanders. We want to play cricket in a way that suits us as a country and how we want to see our kids grow up and play the game themselves,” he told reporters before the team left Mumbai.
“We’ll keep playing cricket the way we do as Kiwis and hopefully the rest of the world can respect us and how we go about our day-to-day life, not only on the field but off it as well. It’s something that we’re really proud of, so we’ll just keep being Black Caps and doing what we’re doing.”
New Zealand next travel to Bangladesh for a two-Test series starting on Nov. 28 and Mitchell said the disappointment of their semi-final exit at the World Cup would not have any impact on their performance.
“That’s the nature of international sport these days,” he said. “(After) the T20 World Cup final we played a couple of years ago, we had a T20 in India about 48 hours after that so we’re used to it.
“We’ll show up, we love Test cricket, it means a hell of a lot to this group. We’ll be ready to go come the first day of that Test and wear that black cap again.”
South Africa’s cricket players react after losing the ICC World Cup semi-final against Australia at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday. Australia won by three wickets. (AFP)