Coach Walter encouraged by Proteas improvement despite defeat in final

Rob Walter and CSA's director of cricket Enoch Nkwe agreed the Proteas have shown incremental improvement in the past 18 months.
Rob Walter and CSA's director of cricket Enoch Nkwe agreed the Proteas have shown incremental improvement in the past 18 months.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Though the pain of defeat in Saturday’s World Cup final is still raw, Proteas head coach Rob Walter said the rapid progress made by the national team in the past 18 months is reason for optimism. 

“We’ve made strides, but by no means are we the finished article,” Walter said on Thursday, after returning from the Caribbean.

“The team achieved great things in a short time. We have progressed. This World Cup showed that, you look at the small moments this team won, which in the past hasn’t gone our way.

“There was resilience, a great skill set and we showed great versatility. The team is continuing to grow.”

South Africa went down by seven runs to India in a gripping final in Barbados on Saturday.

Much like their run to the semifinals of the ODI World Cup in India last year, their relative success in the T20 tournament — jointly hosted in the US and the West Indies — caught many in South Africa by surprise. 

“We’re happy to have been part of a great spectacle, it’s no disgrace to see great skill from Jasprit Bumrah, in particular, who was incredible in the back end of that game. To have lost because of that is a small consolation,” said Walter.

The Proteas won eight of their nine matches at the tournament, which coupled with winning eight out of 10 at the ODI event last year, shows significant improvement, particularly in how they approach tournament play under Walter, who only took on the job last February. 

“I’m hoping the progression continues. Hopefully, we keep putting ourselves in a position where we can compete, that’s the first prize,” said Walter. 

“I still believe South Africa will have to win a World Cup for everyone to stop talking about choking. I haven't seen [choking] with this team. We won big moments in the [ODI] World Cup and big moments in this World Cup.

“We will continue to do so, but there will also be times when we don’t win those moments, because sport is sport.”

Just under two years after Temba Bavuma — captain at the 2022 T20 World Cup — fought back tears after his side were eliminated before the knockout stage of that tournament, CSA’s director of cricket Enoch Nkwe explained how the incremental improvements witnessed in that period were a result of more self-belief. 

“There’s been complete buy-in from domestic coaches and without their support of the national strategy we would be struggling,” said Nkwe.

“The energy has changed. There have been important lessons from previous World Cups, players, coaches, administrators have bought into the new vision. 

“The energy from last year’s World Cup was superb. Not everyone expected the team to perform the way it did. That momentum built belief with the players, you saw that now in this tournament.” 

It had been a protracted journey for those players and the management staff, who returned to South Africa after the tournament because of Hurricane Beryl which has battered the region in the past few days. 

A large portion of the team are contracted to T20 Leagues in the US and Sri Lanka and made their way to those destinations, with only Keshav Maharaj, Ottneil Baartman and Lungi Ngidi from the playing squad returning to South Africa this week.

Baartman will only have five days at home in Oudtshoorn before he flies to the UK where he has been contracted to Hampshire for the T20 Blast tournament.


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