Boucher eyes No.1 Test spot

The Proteas came out of their culture camp in Skukuza in Mpumalanga last month with a newly-adopted identity and team director Mark Boucher has said he and his assistant‚ Enoch Nkwe‚ cannot wait to have the players lay the foundations for a new era.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced on Monday that a lot of hard work is being done behind the scenes to bring a return to playing in what Boucher hopes will be the near future.

CSA said they are finalising dates for both the domestic and international seasons after more than six months of inactivity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2019-20 season was prematurely ended in March when the Covid-19 outbreak forced the team to cut short their limited-overs tour to India‚ whilst local cricket also ended abruptly a few days later.

“It was important for this team to create a new identity. It [just] happened a little bit later than expected‚” said Boucher.

“It was good to have a deeper squad as well. I haven’t been allowed to meet a lot of them personally so it was nice to catch up with them – see a couple of new faces and see a couple of old faces‚ spend a bit of time together and get into the nitty-gritty about where we want to go as a team,” he noted.

The Proteas have plummeted to an embarrassing sixth in the International Cricket Council Test rankings and are ranked fifth in the two white-ball formats‚ and Boucher said he wanted to see some improvements.

“It’s all about performance and that’s key for me.

“We don’t want to be a nice group of guys and be eighth in the world. I’d rather be a challenging group of guys and be competing for the number one spot and they all want that as well‚ which is great to hear‚” said Boucher.

“We’re all aligned in the right direction‚ and although it’s all still words – we still need to go out there and try and live it‚ rather than have it be words coming out of our mouths. I’m happy that the players are happy‚ but now the hard work starts.

“We want to get on the field and start playing. It’s been a long break – I don’t think the players have had this long a break since school days.

“Although they’ve been practicing‚ you [as a coach] want to put that practice into match experience. A few guys have moved over to the IPL‚ so they’ll be happy that they’ll get some game time,” he added.

South African cricketers are poised to make a return to live-action as optimism grows with each passing day that domestic and international matches can be staged behind closed doors after President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announced to the country that the alert lockdown level has dropped to level one.

“My biggest hope for the national team when we do get back to playing again is that we drive the vision that they’ve [the players] put out for themselves. I do believe that we’ve got the talent to do that and if we play in that sort of way‚ I do not doubt that there’s going to be success‚” Boucher announced.

“We’re going to make some mistakes – we’re a young team. But as long as we keep learning from those mistakes‚ we will become a better unit. The players are keen to try something different to get different results‚ especially when we go big,” he added.

By: Thapelo Molebatsi