Symcox flies home to uncertain future (21 Feb 1999)

21 Feb 1999

Symcox flies home to uncertain future

Trevor Chesterfield

Centurion (South Africa) - South Africa's grizzled veteran Pat Symcox flies home today facing an uncertain future and his hope of playing at Lord's for his country fast disappearing.

While his "obituary" as a Test player has already been written and his retirement from the limited-overs international scene is expected after the World Cup on June 20, his mauling at Eden Park on Saturday could have hastened his departure.

Naturally the former hospital financial director would like nothing better than to thumb his nose at his media detractors, but comments coming from Bob Woolmer the South African coach suggests Symmo could face the axe by the end of this week when the World Cup squad is reduced from 30 to 19. Woolmer is credited with saying that "either he bowled badly or the New Zealanders came at him - take your pick". Which is just the sort of reality in which Woolmer deals.

The former England all-rounder whose term as South Africa's coach is due to expire on June 20 after the World Cup, is not the sort who mixes facts with the finery of diplomatic phraseology when it comes to pointing out the short fall of the players under his guidance. If anyone plays below his ability, they know it.

"They (New Zealand batsmen Nathan Astle, Roger Twose and Adam Parore) went after him and didn't allow him to settle. His first five overs went for 35 runs and that, I felt, was the turning point of the game," Woolmer said after the Kiwis took a 2-1 lead in the slogs.

Symcox, who went to New Zealand "on probation" as it were for a place in the World Cup squad, failed to come up to the expectations of the selectors and the chances are that when Peter Pollock, convener of the national selectors turns up in Auckland for the first Test a few days down the road, he will also get the message of how far backward Symmo has gone as an international bowler this season.

Pollock did not mince his metaphors either when, after the Test against the West Indies at Kingsmead Symcox was fired and Paul Adams recalled for the remaining two Tests of that series. Now Nicky Boje's chances have been promoted, but more than that, Derek Crookes might also step up his claims for Symmo's place.

Crookes is sill sore at being overlooked for the limited-overs series against the West Indies and the tour of New Zealand. Yet, to give the selectors their due, they have given Symmo every opportunity.

South Africa, however, fell into the same trap as they did in the game against New Zealand in the 1992 World Cup: a slow, stodgy surface and an inability to put quick runs on the board when batting first (as in 1992) left the tourist with too much to do when bowling at the Kiwis with a target which was barely defendable. Hansie Cronje should have been aware of this problem from the start.

Yet the moment of controversy in this limited-overs international needs a close examination. The run out of Jacques Kallis was a "real burgle" whatever dark glasses and white stick happen to be handy and the Kiwi umpires, as with the bunglers from Oz in the Tests against England, can be justifiably labeled as giving "hometown decisions".

As Bill Burrow, the man who gave the game the fixed camera at each end says, "when will officialdom learn that the one way to take controversy out of the game is for all countries to install the camera".

Words of wisdom. Perhaps when Australia are ruled out of the World Cup final through a faulty replay a la Kallis or Michael Slater, will a decision be made. By that stage the horse has not only bolted, but the prize money as well with it.

Trevor Chesterfield Cricket Writer Pretoria News