Whilst it is easy to get caught up in South Africa’s explosive World Cup exit, what the Proteas was an unreliable set of supplementary bowlers, who couldn’t fill the Jacques Kallis gap.
For many years, Jacques Kallis was the star studded batting allrounder.
With over 25,000 International runs and over 60 International hundreds, the focus was always his runs.
His wickets and catches made a priceless batsman into a formidable allrounder, injecting class and strength into every facet.
Although never prolific as a wicket taker with just 2 five and 2 four wicket halls, his 231 ODI wickets at a miserly average of 31 shows his importance.
The wickets also offered a rest to other senior bowlers, and his spells regularly took wickets, with one coming every 39 balls (6.3 overs) in ODIs. At under 5 runs per over in ODI cricket, Kallis was also control.
With regular wickets, a solid economy rate, surprising pace, vast experience, and a good way of offering frontline bowlers a rest, he always chipped in somehow.
Despite playing in the Big Bash, and despite retiring from Tests to try to focus on playing in this World Cup, it was ultimately one step too far.
All of a sudden this allrounder was plucked from the South African side, and all the focus was the runs again.
Who would score his mammoth contribution of runs? No worries.
Hashim Amla, AB De Villiers, David Miller and Faf, etc, will surely do.
In reality, South Africa were very heavily dependent upon their run scorers, because their bowlers did not actually have such a stellar tornament.
During this World Cup South Africa struggled to maintain pressure for 50 overs. There were too many weak links. Too many holes in the pipe that leaked with the ball.
In this world cup, Imran Tahir, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander all contributed, although they were all under pressure.
Imran Tahir’s nine wickets at 21 is close to his ODI career average of 20.51, and Morne Morkel’s 15 wickets at 17 is better than his ODI career average of 23.98.
But, Philander and Steyn in particular struggled. Philander averaged 33.75 which is a whole ten runs more than his career average of 23, and Dale Steyn’s 31 was also higher than 25.
With frontline seamers struggling, and placing pressure on others, the alternative was to try other options. South Africa’s part timers had to fill in overs.
JP Duminy took six wickets, including a hat-trick against Sri lanka. But he also went at nearly six runs per over. He was perhaps the best of the replacement-Kallis’s.
With the exception of Parnell, who played just a single game, only one other supplementary bowler took a wicket (AB de Villiers.. is there anything he can’t do?), and only one other bowler kept their economy rate under six runs per over (Behardien) at 5.81.
Arguably, South Africa’s front line attack of Steyn, Morkel, Philander and Tahir is as powerful as that of Mitchell Johnson and Starc, or New Zealand’s Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
But, if one of the South African quicks fails, the pressure is piled on, and the attack seems to capitulate.
If Steyn is not taking wickets, unlike Australia who can bring on a Shane Watson, Glen Maxwell or James Faulkner, South Africa seem to be very thin.
As a unit, South Africa look fearsome, but they lack that depth all-rounders and range of multi-faceted players. One only has to look at India’s bowling stocks to see this is very valuable.
There are strong options up front; Ravi Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav. But, there are also a lot of supplementary bowlers who have a role. Suresh Raina and Ravi Jadeja both bowl at under five runs per over, other bowlers such as Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are made obsolete as last resort fill ins.
India have a method. South Africa have a lot of raw energy and hope, but it feels slightly kamikaze and scattergun at times.
When it comes down to winning, a thin-ish layer of quality cannot cover up for a lack of substance throughout the side as a whole.
South Africa remain a side with formidable talents, like Amla, De Villiers, Steyn and Morkel. But, if they are competing with similarly talented sides, it is the margins that will win it.
The Proteas missed that edge that gave them the final inch to get over the line. They are a fine side, with power and pace and hostility, but they were just a Kallis away.