Proteas back in Australia, T20 World Cup shocker behind them

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The Proteas enjoying their training session in Brisbane on Tuesday. PHOTO: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

The Proteas are back in Australia, but this time they are in white clothing as they prepare for their crucial three-Test series, their shock exit from the T20 World Cup a month ago in Adelaide put behind them, according to interim head coach Malibongwe Maketa.

Seven of the crestfallen T20 squad are also in the Test group, including players such as Temba Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada, who had poor World Cups, and a player like Marco Jansen who did not get to play a game.

The Proteas were knocked out of the T20 World Cup by the Netherlands.

“It’s a totally different format and we made sure the T20 players had a longer break both mentally and physically,” Maketa said in Brisbane on Tuesday.

“The players who were here during the World Cup have been able to contribute in terms of conditions and I have challenged them to bring energy to the team.

“In terms of their mental space, the turnaround has happened sooner than expected, so that is really positive. And some guys are coming off good performances at home.

“We have one warm-up game and it’s important for us, we will get all the batsmen to have a chance and monitor our bowlers. It’s crucial for us to get exposed to the pitches,” Maketa said.

The Proteas have already been tested with questions about the acrimonious previous Test series between the two teams – the Sandpapergate Tests of 2017/18 – with the Australian media hoping someone will put their foot in their mouth, but the South Africans have so far brushed off the controversy as something in the past.

“It’s most definitely not an issue for this group. There were only a handful of us involved and it changed people’s careers because it was an unfortunate incident. But that was way back then,” Maketa said.’

Wearing drill sergeant cap

The 42-year-old, seasoned coach also seems to have been wearing his drill sergeant cap since the Proteas arrived in Australia.

“It’s important as a coach to remember that the only way I can affect the game is through preparation. I know some of the guys are not liking me at the moment because I have put them through some really hard sessions.

“But when the Test starts, I hand over to Dean Elgar and the players. Then it’s about how we support them as coaching staff, constantly thinking how we can turn things around or stay ahead in the game.

“We give that info to the players and it’s down to them. We must never get in the way of the players, we have to trust the work we’ve done and ensure the environment is conducive for them to perform,” Maketa said.

Ben Borland/The Citizen