Johannesburg – At the start of the season the former president of the Northern Cricket Union, Vincent Sinovich, told me that it would be “bloody difficult” for the Highveld Lions to match or even improve on the success they had last summer.
“Backing up, after the season they had will be bloody difficult, especially for a coach only into his second season. Everyone comes chasing after you.”
The Lions have unravelled these past few weeks.
The success of last season, built on a relaxed and happy dressing room, seems such a long way off. The rest of the season will be the biggest test of Geoffrey Toyana’s tenure as coach.
Those second season blues affect a lot of sides (not just cricket ones) as opponents analyse strengths and search for weaknesses.
Then there’s the new-found spotlight, which is wonderful in the beginning, but just wears you down the more you stay in it and finally, there’s the expectation.
A lot of people were expecting the Lions to match and better last season’s results which included two trophies (one of which was shared) and a runners-up spot in the country’s premier first class competition.
The Lions players and coaching staff had high expectations of themselves too – they felt, rightly, they could do better.
Injuries hampered them in the Momentum Cup – the absence of Neil McKenzie for the first half of the league phase leaving a hole which proved too large to fill.
Their batting has been inconsistent in the Sunfoil Series and then there’s been the current episode with Alviro Petersen in the RamSlam that seems to have opened up old wounds Toyana would have felt he dealt with last season.
Toyana is an affable man. He recognised what the team needed at the start of the 2012/13 season was for everyone to relax.
The years under the tutorship of Toyana’s predecessor, Dave Nosworthy, had been invaluable as it provided the Lions with much-needed structure.
But Toyana, Nosworthy’s assistant in the latter’s final season as Lions coach, also realised that the players were wound up too tightly for them to achieve the success they craved.
He loosened the shackles, let the players drive the agenda more, let them think for themselves, allowed them to be grownups.
And perhaps now, all of them, should show their coach they care.
Stop blaming others for their troubles or looking for issues where there are none – get back to playing cricket and screw the off-field politics and petty personality clashes.