A lack of proper preparation – compared to their opponents – and a lack of experience were held as reasons for the South African under-19 team’s embarrassing 7-0 One-Day series loss against their Pakistani counterparts.
The series concluded on Sunday and in the current climate – on the back of the senior men’s national team’s failure at the World Cup – does not reflect well on the standard of South African cricket at international level.
The junior team’s coach Lawrence Mahatlane said his players could have done with more preparation time, highlighting how the Pakistanis had held a month long training camp and had just come off a series against Sri Lanka.
“They were battle hardened and it showed. They were the better team and we have to give credit where it’s due.”
Any way you look at it however, a 7-0 series loss is hugely embarrassing, and with South Africa set to host the Under-19 World Cup in January next year, Mahatlane and Cricket SA have an enormous task ahead of them if that tournament is not to turn in a disappointment.
It’s not as if the matches against Pakistan were close either; margins of wins when the visitors batted first ranged between 17 and 116 runs, and when they batted second they got to the required target with plenty of overs to spare.
It’s an age old probelm that Mahatlane has faced in his tenure as under-19 coach – having schoolboys go up against age-group counterparts, who have played against men in either domestic T20 leagues, while many also have first class experience.
“I had 11 schoolboys and bridging that gap is hard. We’ve talked about giving them exposure at first class level, and in the Mzansi Super League and its crucial we do so,” said Mahatlane.
Cricket SA is scheduled to hold a special meeting of the Board of Directors on July 20, ostensibly to discuss the Proteas’ poor performance in England, but it would be remiss of the Board not to include a plan for the national under-19 team as well.
Jonathan Bird was the only South African player to emerge from the serious with his reputation enhanced, as he topped the run-scorers charts with an aggregate of 356 runs, that included two centuries. “He has put in a lot of hard work, especially after the England series last year where he took advantage of senior players like Wandile Makwetu and really hit it hard in that series. In this series he got into a real purple patch, and just kept running with it. It was very impressive to see.”
Mahatlane is running a series of camps in the next few weeks and is hoping that Cricket SA can arrange some more series in the coming months although that training will be hindered by the matric exams in a few months time.
The SA under-19s are next due to play in December, against India.