The Proteas have a responsibility to unite the country, to inspire and to give hope that there is more to the diversity of South Africa when the country acts as one.
Since South Africa’s dismal Cup campaign in England and Wales in 2019, the sport in the country has been mostly surrounded by drama and negativity, and because of that, interest from the public began its downward spiral.
While the Springboks emerged as a symbol of hope for the country post-2019, SA cricket increasingly radiated a contrasting image as dramatic incidents occurred in and around the team.
The involvement of former head coach Mark Boucher in some of the drama of the 2019-2022 period only reinforced the country’s lack of trust in the team and, to an extent, a part of the country just could not relate to them – it just did not feel like the team also belonged to them.
But since coach Rob Walter and his staff have taken over, along with Temba Bavuma’s backing as captain, there has been a renewed hope within the country and with that came the rising interest from the public.
The Wanderers was sold out for Sunday’s 122-run victory over Australia that secured a 3-2 series win, just like Kingsmead had been in the T20I series.
“I’ve said it a lot since I’ve come back. It’s awesome to see how the crowds have changed, the demographics of the crowds have changed,” Walter said yesterday.
“Hopefully the cricket we have played has been the catalyst to that and will continue to be.”
What is most refreshing about this unit as they get set to depart for next month’s Cup in India this week is not only the fact that they have been able to go from 2-0 down in the one-day international series against arch rivals Australia to winning it 3-2, but the understanding of the coaching staff, along with the players, that one of the primary roles of the team is to provide hope, inspiration and unity to a country faced with socioeconomic challenges.
“The role of the team is to provide inspiration and hope and to unify. It’s that simple,” Walter emphasised.
“The way to doing that is by playing a brand of cricket that people can get excited about. “Secondly, everyone likes to win. “While playing the brand that we want to play, that we want to excite people who watch the Proteas play, we also understand that we are a vehicle for inspiration for the country.
“When the team is at its best, they provide a little mirror into what the country can look like where race is not an issue, where there’s no political divide.
“It’s just 11 guys on the park and everyone supporting them, only focused on one thing and that’s the collective to get the job done and play good cricket.
“Everyone is aware of the responsibility of the team but we understand that the only way to create that change is to play our best cricket.”
Walter and his men are set to board a plane to India on Saturday for the 2023 ICC Cup, which gets under way on October 5.