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In Japan they have a particular set of monsters called Yokai. These monsters can be anything from a small boy who carries tofu to a demon hag who stabs and eats pregnant women. Once upon a time in Kyoto, all the Yokai walked around the outskirts of the town in a menacing way. They called it the Demons' night parade.
It upset the locals.
The South African touring squad has not yet menacingly walked anywhere. They have arrived late due to the Champions League, have played in only one warm-up match on the un-Gabba like SCG and were largely uninspiring in that game.
And yet the locals have been upset.
Last season according to Bill Lawry, Craig McDermott and other Australians, Australia had the best bowling attack in the world. Somehow that same bowling attack, which now looks exactly the same, is no match for the South African bowling attack that is the best since the West Indies of the 70s, 80s and 90s. What happened to our much loved Aussie bravado? Surely the sight of Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell making half-centuries against this South African attack would be enough for someone, anyone, to shout from the roof top that Australia is going to murder this attack.
Then was the Rob Quiney decision. Australia could have said we picked Rob Quiney because he represents good old Australian club cricket attacking nature. Sure he's taken a while to get his act together, but it's now together, and the guy plays fast bowling like he has the reflexes of Jay Garrick, hits the ball really hard, has a good head on his shoulders, plays the Gabba like it's his backyard and will take down this South African attack.
Instead we hear about good form and that Dale Steyn doesn't bowl well against left handers. Pitiful.
Then there is the not-so-secret dossier. Every now and then since John Buchanan "misplaced" some before a Shield final against Western Australia, Australia has released notes about the opposition that will embarrass or unsettle them.
I bet Kallis is upset at being called a once-in-a-generation player.
Australia are denying they had anything to do with it. But considering their history in allowing the opposition to see what they think of them, it's hard to believe that they weren't involved one way or another. Whether it was written by an Australian player, member of the support staff or any one in Australia the real problem is how limp it is.
We have no real idea how to get Hashim Amla out, let's sledge him.
Vernon Philander is really good with the new ball, let's try and not get out to him.
And when Graeme Smith is out of form his feet don't move much.
Come on. What is this. If you're going to write something like this, how about something a bit more in-depth or just a bit more cutting.
Vernon Philander has been seaming the ball like crazy on helpful wickets; let's see what he does on flat Australian tracks. He might be rubbish at it. Morne Morkel's last over at Lord's shows just how mentally fragile this killing machine is. Sure, he'll take a 4/80 in this series, but if we break him, their great bowling attack is stuttering. JP Duminy has made one Test hundred since his famous ton in Melbourne; he's one bad series from being back in the wilderness. Let's send him there for what he did to us at the MCG. Imran Tahir is flighty and unpredictable, South Africa still have no idea how to use an attacking spinner, and he can't bowl defensively. Let's tear his head off and use it as a reusable shopping bag. Never get out to Kallis, if you can manage that he won't want to bowl anymore. If Kallis doesn't bowl much they have a four-man attack with Tahir and Morkel as potential weak links while Philander is untested in Australia.
And where the secrets on the psyche of South Africa? I don't see the word choke once. This un-secret dossier should have been titled "The Choke Manifesto". The word choke should have been used so often that SA's brain doctor Paddy Upton had to turn his mobile off just to have a coffee. No mentions of previous occasions where South Africa had the chance to become world No. 1 in Sydney, and didn't do it, or how they lost the following series at home after Australia brought in Marcus North, Phil Hughes, Bryce McGain and Andrew McDonald as their special weapons. No mention of how South Africa could only ever draw with India even after they repeatedly won the first Test in shortened series. Nothing.
If South Africa win this series, they're more than the No. 1-ranked ICC side, they're the best team in world cricket. If they don't win it, it'll be seen as another false dawn. South Africa drew against India at home, drew against Pakistan in the UAE and drew against Australia in South Africa. They're the best side of a bad bunch, but they haven't proven themselves yet.
They were brilliant against England, but it was an England that was emotionally moronic and in the middle of a slide. They defeated New Zealand 1-0, but they usually burn villages when they play the Kiwis. And last summer they beat Sri Lanka 2-1 at home, far from an effusive win for a team of this calibre.
Their captain has signed a deal with Surrey that shows he has one foot out the door. And their best ever player is about 100 years old.
This South Africa is a very good cricket team, but they're not the Justice League. There are problems and insecurities that even an injured and average-on-paper Australian side in transition might be able to capitalise on.
This is not Bambi Vs Godzilla, this is one really good team against another who wants to be really good. South Africa should win this, but that's no reason for Australia to act like they already have. I actually saw a piece that said Australia had nothing to lose in this series, from an Australian. What is going on? When I left Australia last summer I floated away on the aura of this soon-to-be world No. 1 cricket side, not a scrappy insurgency team.
Australia may not win, but South Africa will have to do more than just turn up and walk menacingly to win this. Some bravado, posturing and name calling would be nice. Just to remind us that the Australian summer has begun.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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