Anrich Nortje. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
The Proteas’ aspirations for the 2023 World Cup are fraught with trepidation, echoing the unfortunate saga that befell their predecessors four years prior. In the lead-up to the tournament in the United Kingdom, former coach Ottis Gibson had meticulously assembled a formidable battery of fast bowlers, poised to unleash their fury on the world stage. However, a cruel twist of fate struck even before they departed South African shores.
Fast forward to the present, and the current coach, Rob Walter, is left to fervently hope that history does not repeat itself as the Proteas embark on their journey to India. Departure looms on the horizon, scheduled for Saturday, yet there is an air of uncertainty lingering over the fitness of Nortje and the enigmatic Sisanda Magala. While both have earned their place in the 15-player World Cup squad, their recent track record raises concerns.
Throughout the white-ball clashes against Australia over the past month, encompassing eight intense encounters, Nortje and Magala have only featured in a solitary one-day international each. Their availability for the marquee event hinges on their ability to prove their fitness by Friday, a race against time that keeps fans on the edge of their seats.
‘We would have wanted them out there’ – Coach Walter doesn’t seem hopeful his pacers would make it to the marquee event
Nortje’s brief return to the field in the second ODI against Australia in Bloemfontein was marred by adversity, as he was forced to leave the action after just five laborious overs. Subsequent scans unveiled a nagging lower back injury, keeping him out for the remainder of the series.
Meanwhile, Magala’s situation mirrors the precariousness of Nortje’s predicament. His lone appearance in the third ODI saw him labour through a mere four overs before fading from the selection radar. Coach Walter, acutely aware of the gravity of the situation, articulated the mounting concern, stating,
“We are continually taking stock as to where both of those players are. The fact that they weren’t playing today with a week to go before we board the plane for the World Cup is obviously a cause for concern. We would have wanted them out there. There are complications around taking players who are injured into a World Cup because then you have to provide a medical reason to be swapped out.” Coach Walter said after the Proteas closed out a 3-2 series comeback triumph at the Wanderers.