Graeme Smith Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix
CAPE TOWN - South Africa’s timid performance in their crushing eight-wicket defeat to India in ICC Champions Trophy on Sunday has really “hurt” former captain Graeme Smith.

Smith was on commentary duty at The Oval while the Proteas were capitulating in front of him. The 36-year-old, who has felt the brunt of similar defeats at major ICC tournaments during his leadership term, felt the pain of the nation back home lamenting yet another Proteas failure.

“I left the ground Sunday feeling as many South African fans will be feeling. Disappointment that the team haven’t managed to recreate the form and the brand of cricket that have seen them be so successful in white ball cricket over the past 12-18 months.

“I still care deeply about the environment that I spent so much time building as a player, and it hurt to see such an unrecognisable South Africa performance. The side have been missing that spark, or that intensity to their play that characterises South Africa cricket,” Smith said in his column for www.icc-cricket.com

Unlike the form team of this tournament, England, who have adopted an almost cavalier adventurous brand of cricket, South Africa climbed into their shells when it mattered most. 

Proteas captain AB de Villiers' dismissal sparked a collapse against India. Photo: Reuters

The World’s No 1 ranked ODI team failed to impose themselves on the opposition with star opening duo Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock setting the trend by preferring to absorb the pressure exerted by the Indian bowlers instead of laying a marker down themselves.

“With the bat, there was a real chance to make an impression on the game early, by looking to, at least, try and put the India seamers under pressure.

"That didn’t happen, and this cautious style of play that seems to lack the intent that we’ve seen from the same players previously, is what puzzles me the most,” Smith said.

“What I would have liked to have seen from the guys at the top of the order is, at least, an attempt to put Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar under pressure. Anything to put them off their game and bring their plans in to question. Our approach was far more conservative.”

Smith believed this approach set in the “panic” that occurred later when South Africa suffered two run outs, which included the crucial wicket of ODI captain AB de Villiers.

Pakistan’s Hasan Ali celebrates bowling out South Africa’s Faf du Plessis. Photo: Reuters

“Whereas I’ve grown so used to the free flowing, often powerful starts to our batting, today was slightly timid and that led to a position where you could almost see a panic creep in to our play.

"Panic related to getting ‘a score’, and panic about how we were going to get to 300 plus which seems to be par in this tournament so far,” he explained.

“Mindset, and your approach to the game, are those one percent factors that make the difference at this level. When those factors are not there, you pay the price and it’s the team’s approach that has been the missing ingredient.

"If you’re ever so slightly off the boil that will translate to the performances on the field and often it just doesn’t look right. Since the team have started against England in May, it hasn’t looked right to me as an observer.”

@ZaahierAdams

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Cape Times

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