India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 3rd day November 30, 2004

No South Africa slump - Rhodes

Jonty Rhodes was disappointed with the empty seats at Eden Gardens © Getty Images

Jonty Rhodes, in India for some promotional and charity work, gave a press conference at the end of the third day. Still as popular as in his playing days, and looking not a day older, Rhodes was plied with questions about his own career, and also about the current South African team.

Rhodes denied that South African cricket was going through a slump at the moment because of any problems with the domestic system. "There's nothing wrong with the feeder system in place at the moment. In fact our system of domestic cricket has recently been reorganised, and now there's a smaller and stronger pool of players. But you have to consider what can happen to a side that loses players like Allan Donald, Gary Kirsten and myself within the space of a year. That's players with a combined experience of 600 one-day internationals suddenly gone, and that's hard to replace.

"A lot of the new guys who have come in are very talented. But it's also a case of settling into your role in the side. Gary used to drop anchor for us at one end; Allan would be the one we called upon to break partnerships, or bowl in the slog overs in one-day games. New players need time to work out their roles and settle into them. This side is obviously an experimental side, but as long as the selectors don't experiment every time, and keep backing the players they've picked, there should be new players coming through soon."

Rhodes also said that increasing professionalism has had an impact on how players approach their game. "In my time we were motivated by a love for the game. The same is true now, but players go off to academies when they're 18, while people like Hansie Cronje or I actually had jobs. Now the game has possibly ceased to be fun any more for the current lot - it's like a profession, a job."

Asked about his favourite cricketing memory of India, Rhodes said it was of the time when he took five catches in a match against West Indies at Bombay in 1993-94. "The atmosphere was great, and the crowd was chanting my name. You don't expect support like that away from home."

And Rhodes felt that the best catch he ever took was the one to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar in a one-dayer at Durban in 1996-97. "He drove it hard and low to my left and I dived and caught it just above the ground," he recalled. "When Tendulkar hits a ball at you, you know that it's coming at you with pace. I think I still have the imprint of that Kookaburra ball on my palm."

Chandrahas Chowdhury is a staff writer with Wisden Asia Cricket magazine.