By Nishad Pai Vaidya
The year 2013 has seen different shades for the South African side. On one hand, they saw the end of an era, with certain figures walking into sunset, while on the other, they consolidated their spot at the top of the Test rankings. However, the infamous tag of “Chokers” continues to haunt them as they saw another exit in a knockout game of an International Cricket Council (ICC) event. On a whole, South Africa would be happy with their progress in 2013 for they have seen a slight change of guard in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and the continuation of stability in the Tests.
The biggest news for South Africa in 2013 was the retirement of Jacques Kallis from Tests. It was an announcement that shocked many as it came mid-way through the series against India, but something one would have thought was imminent given his struggles in Test cricket. The year closed with him scoring a superb ton against India and walking away from the No 4 spot and leaving behind a huge void in the setup to fill. Come 2014, they have to find an apt replacement at that spot, but it has to be remembered he doubles up as a fine seamer as well.
The other big development was the end of Gary Kirsten’s tenure. It was quite unfortunate that he finished with the ICC Champions Trophy exit, as here is a man who fashioned a memorable world title for India, but couldn’t do the same for his homeland. In England, South Africa had done well to make it to the semi-finals with a depleted squad, but were bundled out cheaply in that crunch game against England. It has become systemic for their ODI side, and Russell Domingo, the new coach, has to do something about it before the 2015 World Cup.
Domingo takes over a strong Test side though. While, he has tried numerous youngsters in ODIs, his Test unit remains formidable. The only hiccup on that front was a defeat to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, but they have largely been strong their year. They came agonizingly close to setting a world record of the highest run-chase in Test cricket against India, but then managed to wrap the series in the next game. As 2014 comes about, their biggest contest would be against the resurgent Aussies.
The other notable thing to happen this year was the emergence of Quinton de Kock, the dashing wicketkeeper batsman. By the end of the year, he established himself at the top of the order in ODIs with four tons, three of them coming in a row against India. As a result, Graeme Smith had to sit out and wait for his chances. In a way, it is a change of guard, as de Kock is young and South Africa are looking to the future. For Smith, the Test captain, to come back into the ODI team would be a tough task, but if he can gather a few inspiring performances, he could well be in the mix. But, one thing is for sure: de Kock is one for the future and may come into the Test side sooner than later.
Thus, in Tests in 2013, South Africa won seven of their nine contests. In 29 ODIs, they registered 14 victories. Those numbers make for a good reading, and South Africa definitely are looking forward to the next year with major things in store.
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