The Proteas can finally begin their road to redemption after their disappointing World Cup campaign earlier this year.
Unlike all the other nine competing teams, it is only the Proteas have not been in action since the global jamboree in the United Kingdom two months ago. In fact, world champions England have already surrendered the Ashes to allow Australia to avenge their semi-final defeat, while last-placed Afghanistan have gone on to complete a historic maiden Test victory.
So while others have been getting on with the business of playing, Cricket South Africa has utilised the time to clean up shop with the removal of coach Ottis Gibson and the majority of his support staff in order to implement a new structure around the national team.
Although acting only in an interim capacity, but what is undoubtedly doubling up as an audition too, this has left rookie Highveld Lions coach Enock Nkwe at the helm of the Proteas for this tour of India in the newly-formed post of Team Director.
Nkwe, 36, certainly faces a baptism of fire in his first international jaunt, and he will not even have the tactical nous of regular captain Faf du Plessis to call on for the first phase – a three-match T20 series starting on Sunday in Dharamshala. Instead he will need to lean on Quinton de Kock, who has been handed the leadership reins.
It certainly is a brand new beginning for the Proteas, especially with the squad assembled boasting four uncapped T20I players in Temba Bavuma, Bjorn Fortuin, Anrich Nortje and George Linde.
“This series is obviously the start of a new chapter,” Nkwe said upon the Proteas’ arrival in Dharamshala on Tuesday. “There are a few new characters on the group. We have a strong squad. We have a good leader here with me (Quinton de Kock). If you look at our captain, he has played a lot of cricket here in India. We also have some fresh blood.
“It’s also an opportunity to build for the future. We know where Faf stands as our captain and as player. He’s done great things for South African cricket. We also need to look at what the future could hold for us. We believe in Quinton’s leadership. I strongly believe that we have a good enough squad. We know the opposition are strong in the backyard, but we are here to win.”
Although Nkwe may not know whether he will be involved or not at this stage, there is another World Cup – the ICC T20 World Cup – next year to begin planning for, and a successful series could put the coach and players involved firmly in the shop window.
“We are looking to invest in building a good foundation going into the T20 World Cup next year. But the focus really is just on this battle with India. We still have lot of T20 games to play before that tournament, I think it’s about 20,” he said.
“It’s really just about playing this series and assessing the situation after that, to see where we’re at and how we can adapt further.”