Durban – And so another world tournament slipped through the fingers of the Proteas. Sadly, even just writing about it a few days after the event still drags up the unfortunate feeling of another let-down.
I guess thousands of fans around the world also feel the same, and will do until next time. We all want the same, it doesn’t matter which player you fancy or what axe you have to grind with a coach or captain, we all just want our South African cricket team to win.
The problem is that each and every time the expectations aren’t met, it compounds the anxiety and gets worse.
I sense that we have reached a new low as far as accepting the result this time around. What really makes me believe that is that our coach, Gary Kirsten, has come out and said we “choked”.
This word has become something of a mind-set now. Whether the team like it or not, the label has now been stuck firmly on the box. The captain, AB de Villiers, has also come out and publicly said that perhaps they aren’t as good as they themselves thought they were.
Immediately I begin to hear some drop in confidence, and if he as the leader is feeling it, sure enough his players are also going to, sooner or later.
Over the last while it’s become fashionable for the team to travel to far-off places and spend time with supposed “gurus” who help change confidence levels and instil some kind of camaraderie and togetherness before going into battle. The last one was in Holland, and before that it was in Switzerland, of all places.
Clearly, the cash and time spent on these jaunts should rather have been spent on something else. It would have been more beneficial to go down to Durban beachfront for a stroll and a swim in the sea together.
The question that keeps coming up is: WHY does it happen? Over the years many people have had many thoughts on it and different things have been tried. New coaches have been brought in, players have been changed and so on, yet the result still comes up the same. A loss in the face of pressure of the moment and an early flight home.
My honest thinking is that it starts right here at home, in our own backyard, and no amount of “gurus” are going to change it easily.
It’s in the DNA of our domestic game. The reason is, simply, we don’t often find ourselves in that similar pressure situation often enough to learn about it and experience it. Also, we don’t create that climate domestically to actually see who can play when the chips are down.
Too many round-robin type competitions happen where there are always second chances to recover. Too many players are being paid and under-achieve without consequences. Imagine this: our domestic one-day and T20 competition are a knockout played over one round with players’ contracts on the line… I’m just saying…
Moving on… an issue that needs to be dealt with is why we made so many fundamental errors in our selection of this squad, as well as on the day of the semi-final itself.
The entire cricket world is crying out about how Vernon Philander didn’t get to even be on the plane to the UK. How could that have happened?
I’m not even going to begin to delve into his statistics as a new-ball bowler in England or anywhere else; suffice to say that any team that can leave him out when there are two new white balls going to be used in conditions that suit swing bowling more often than not, must have one helluva attack.
Ranting on about other players who also should have been there, and then a few that shouldn’t have, won’t help the cause right now. It’s over. But will we learn from it, or is there something more to it that precludes us from picking the best players for the job. If there is, there is no better time for SA cricket to come out and say it.
On the fateful day of the loss, Alviro Pieterson should have been playing. However, because he hadn’t been in the side up to that point, it was always going to be tough to suddenly make the change and replace Colin Ingram, who had scored runs a game or two before.
Of course, facing the likes of James Anderson in England was never going to be easy for a makeshift opener.
Then, to shake the box even more, we go out to bowl and need to defend a terribly low score, yet we use two spinners in the first period of play and don’t give the ball to someone like Tsotsobe, who was lucky to be playing, but who everyone knows is only effective with the new ball. Surely AB de Villiers wasn’t hoping to try to defend the 170. He had to know that the only way to win was to bowl England out.
On that pitch with a new white ball, Robin Peterson and JP Duminy were never ever going to get four or five wickets cheaply. I’m not saying they aren’t good bowlers, it’s just that the situation was read so badly in my opinion.
Of course that begs the obvious question that many are asking. Is AB de Villiers the right bloke for the job?
I honestly can’t say yes or no, but on the evidence presented thus far as a captain, the performances have been very inconsistent, and at times things on the field have got out of control.
Now De Villiers is right up there with the best in the world as a player and no-one can fault his passion for the game and his commitment to the cause.
However, some of the world’s best players have come up short in the captaincy stakes. In fact, Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest of all, was deemed to not fit the role. That’s just the way it is.
Gary Kirsten ended his sojourn with the Proteas and unfortunately it didn’t go as he planned. His work with the Test team was good, but with the shorter version of the game he made little impact.
The Test team, one could even argue, was moulded before him anyway, with the likes of Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel all having been developed earlier.
Perhaps the two biggest contributions he made was that he instilled more of an openness in the team and enforced a greater sense of responsibility for performance on players.
The second thing was that he discovered that Vernon Philander was good enough to play Test cricket and gave him a chance.
New coach Russel Domingo will want to begin his era with his stamp on things. He takes over at a time when his champion bowler is beginning to get injured more and more, and his star all-rounder isn’t that keen to play a lot of cricket any more. – Sunday Tribune