Proteas must became invincible at home

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AP

The Proteas have been regarded as the No 1 Test side for a few years now, but theres just something that they seem to be lacking. Photo by: Themba Hadebe

Those damn Aussies are back.The manner in which Michael Clarke’s men have trampled over the pitiful Poms was a stark reminder to the cricketing world that you can’t keep an Aussie down for too long.

In many ways, a strong Australia is good for the game, and will add more weight to the Proteas’s claim of being one of the best teams since the turn of the century. That claim is diluted by a lack of a proper rival. Clarke’s men, having found their mojo – and their Mitch again – will definitely be that.

The Proteas have been regarded as the No 1 Test side for a few years now, but until they find the knack of blowing the opposition away on home turf, they will not be regarded as a true force, to be measured against the dominant teams of eras gone by.

The likes of the Windies of the 80s and 90s, and the Aussies of the late 90s and the Noughties had one thing in common. When you crossed over into their shores, they were rampant, as they steamrollered reputation, got into the head of the visiting captain, and watched with glee as panic spread across the touring party.

By the time you left, so-called stars had been put in their place, and the weak links in the team had been savagely exposed. In the Caribbean, it was an examination by sheer pace. Down Under, it was a mixture of pace, precision and the mercurial skills of the game’s greatest slow bowler, Shane Warne.

There was no relent, and the public were baying for blood from the sidelines. The Proteas have many of those ingredients, save for the sheer class of Warne. Of course, he was a once-in-a-lifetime freak – and that was before the Botox.

The current South African attack is varied and established, and there is undoubted class within the top seven, the cornerstone of any quality side. Nothing is more disheartening to a visiting captain than watching your best bowler carted to all corners.

The look on Alastair Cook’s face when Jimmy Anderson was pummelled all over the Waca suggested a sense of helplessness. That kind of assault leaves mental scars on a side, and the Proteas have the players to inflict similar damage with the bat.

But, when was the last, dominant batting performance at home? You know, the kind of display where three or four batsmen pile on the agony, and reduce good bowlers to cannon fodder. We all remember how Steve Waugh and Greg Blewett batted forever and a day at the Wanderers, having seen the likes of Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist do the same to our much-vaunted pace attack Down Under .

The Proteas need to become ruthless at home. They need to start bullying the opposition, instilling genuine trepidation before teams even land at OR Tambo International.

Like the Windies and the Aussies, who came before them, they have the best bowler in the world, the best batsman in the world and, most importantly, the most intimidating captain in the world.

But the Proteas seem reluctant to hit the turbo-charge button at home. The ice-cool temperament that they have displayed across the globe – in the heat of Mumbai, during the rear-guard in Adelaide, the brutal assault of the Poms at the Oval – is replaced by uncertainty on home soil.

Put them on a plane and they are ruthless, like the Mafia. It’s not worth recollecting when they last lost a Test series away from home. It just doesn’t happen anymore. But, in front of their own fans, they become timid and tentative.

They need to start taking numbers, right here on their own patch. And that starts with beating India convincingly. Then the cock-a-hoop Aussies need to be put back in their place.

It’s time for Graeme Smith’s men to prove that they are Test cricket’s current mob of The Untouchables. - Sunday Independent


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