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Johannesburg – A few days before the first Test at the Wanderers with Pakistan I interviewed Jacques Kallis and asked him about the culture in the South African team.
The team’s culture is something often raised by Gary Kirsten and Graeme Smith, but according to arguably South Africa’s best cricketer and also the most experienced member of the team, what is this culture? What was it really all about?
“It’s an environment where guys are given the freedom to do what they want. But there is a mark, and no one oversteps that mark. Which is an incredible culture to have because everyone has respect for each other,” Kallis said at the start of his reply.
“We know what the right thing is to do at a certain time and guys have the respect for each other to make the right decisions at the right time.
“There’s a trust that’s been developed that the guys know, the guy next to you has put in the work and that’s what’s made this team so close.
“That’s not something that you get overnight, that’s come over a long period.”
I was recalling that interview while reading numerous reports on the ructions which rocked the Australian team in India.
Leaving aside the lame (and occasionally snide) jokes about “my dog eating the homework”, the acts of the four Australian players, including the vice-captain, were disrespectful.
It was disrespectful of Mickey Arthur as coach and Michael Clarke as captain, and it was disrespectful of the other Australian players who took the time to carry out an instruction that came in the wake of one of the most embarrassing defeats suffered by an Australian side for 20 years.
Would something like that happen in the South African side? Listening to Kallis, you would think not – certainly not with the current team many of whom have shared each other’s space for seven years.
The Australian team touring India, doesn’t have the kind of experience of the current South African side, they have not spent a lot of time in each other’s company and are only just beginning to create a culture for their team.
Trust and respect will sit at the core of that culture, but those virtues will only strengthen the longer the players are together as a group.
Part of Kallis’ response about the question of culture related to sustaining it – “that is passing on the culture from generation to generation”.
The South African Test team is currently riding the crest of a wave, but as the incidents in India show, plummeting off that crest doesn’t take long. – The Star