World Twenty20 2012 October 4, 2012

Another major tournament, another failure

Upon returning home, South Africa's coach and captain looked back on a tournament of many disappointments and few positives

It was not exactly visible in the bright sunshine but Gary Kirsten said a "dark mist" had descended on the South African squad as it arrived home from the World T20. Another tournament, another failure. Of a completely different kind this time.

Not the choke of 1999, 2003, 2007 (twice), 2009, 2010, or 2011. Not a choke at all, in fact. Just poor cricket caused by a combination of poor judgement, selection blunders, and an inability to adjust to conditions and tiredness.

The last time AB de Villiers was in his home country was in early July, when South Africa left for England. Their assent to the top of the Test rankings was foremost in their minds then. In the aftermath of their World T20 exit, it was barely mentioned on their return. They were prepared to acknowledge what went wrong and broke down the reasons for South Africa returning empty handed from Sri Lanka, while also pointing out some positives.

Bad calls
"We said from the outset it's going to be about the quality of our decision-making in key moments and the quality of our execution. We weren't up to the mark when it came to both those things."
Gary Kirsten.

"The most important thing for me is managing the guys, knowing who can perform under pressure and who to go to in the right situations. I've got better at that but I'm still not where I want to be with that.
AB de Villiers.

An opening batsman with a clear problem against spin, an unsettled batting line-up, and a reliance on seam were some of the tactical errors South Africa made. It resulted in innings that always started badly because Richard Levi went from unsure to inept and the rest of the order could not stabilise quickly enough. It was also constantly changing and De Villiers often batted too low which meant that South Africa could not post good-enough scores.

Short format, less time
"We should have closed the game out against Pakistan. It is now for us to understand those moments better and knowing that in the T20 version you've got to close those deals very quickly."
Gary Kirsten.

Unlike an ODI series, T20 cricket, especially in tournament format, happens fast. Oppositions change every few days, there is little preparation time between matches and there are more on-the-spot decisions to be made in the field. As an inexperienced captain, De Villiers - who has never even led a schools' side - got some of those wrong. Bowling Albie Morkel against Pakistan when Johan Botha was available was one such mistake; not having Jacques Kallis open the batting when convener of selectors Andrew Hudson said he would, was another. Time may help De Villiers improve on those fronts, which he will have to do, because the game isn't getting any longer.

"It's never easy because you are on the road for a long time. But we can't use that as an excuse, all teams are faced with different situations. South Africa have had a fair amount of time off as a cricket nation over the last year."
Gary Kirsten.

"The most important thing for me is managing the guys, knowing who can perform under pressure and who to go to in the right situations. I've got better at that but I'm still not where I want to be with that."
AB de Villiers

Professional sportsmen are paid to play sport and if that involved not seeing their own bed, dogs and back gardens (not to mention families) for a while, then so be it. But professional sportsmen are people too. Any person who has to constantly pack and unpack a suitcase, eat a hotel breakfast and watch hours of flat-screen television late at night eventually gets tired of it.

There are those who manage to handle a nomadic existence without tiring. Pakistan, for example, have thrived since international hosting rights were taken away from them. But South Africa, as was evident from the Super Eights match, are not Pakistan. They are not a team that can conjure up class from chaos and make sense out of instability. Previously, they were accused of being run by a schoolmaster-like ship. While that may be harsh, it would not be too much of a leap to say South Africa do sometimes find safety in structure, something they will not get with long periods away from home.

"Look at someone like Farhaan Berhardien, who I think came through outstandingly. He was one of the highlights and showed that, mentally, he can step up to the plate."
Gary Kirsten.

Behardien had only played one T20 international before the tournament, but his domestic form has kept him bubbling under for the national team. After the unofficial tri-series in Zimbabwe, he did not look like he could make the step up so soon. But, he showed maturity in holding an innings together against Australia and allowing JP Duminy to play the aggressor's role.

"Robin Peterson is playing better cricket than ever. He is a game-breaker. I can always rely on him to pick up a wicket or two so I bring him on whenever I feel that is the best time for us to pick up a wicket."
AB de Villiers.

At the 2011 World Cup, Peterson was South Africa's highest wicket-taker and earned himself a permanent place in the one-day squad. The more responsibility he's been given, the better he has played. Peterson has a full decade of experience in international cricket to call on and what he learnt in the dressing room is now showing itself on the field.

A fond farewell
"We had a chat to Johan Botha afterwards because we knew it could be his last game. It was quite emotional. He has been a consistent performer for us; he has always worn the shirt with a lot of passion and pride and he was always a team-man. We'll have to move forward and try and replace him with someone else. But, he will be missed."
AB de Villiers.

Seven years of service to South Africa, which included a stint as captain, has come to an end for one of its stalwarts. Botha has been released from his CSA contract and will captain South Australia for the next two seasons. He has accepted that means he is unlikely to play for the national team again. Botha was named Graeme Smith's successor as T20 captain in August 2010 but was replaced by De Villiers.

He remained an important part of the set-up but was pushed to the fringes and, with a Test future unlikely, decided to lengthen his first-class career elsewhere. He will leave behind a legacy of what-could-have-beens, just like many of South Africa's participation in major tournaments.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Neuen on October 5, 2012, 23:56 GMT

    South Africa exited the World T20 tournament by simply playing like crap - again. In reality we are now stuck with as again they were just not good enough to win when they needed to. There was never a choke insight this against Pakistan or Australia, they were just inferior to their opposition. This is a start in a new and exciting era for the SA limited overs team one defined by just not being that great and I for one am thrilled by it.

    No denying the quality of SA players that have earned a cap for SA the past 20 years or so but let's face it, that all counts for jack when it comes to beating who stands in your way.

    We have the no 1 test team in the world currently who grinded out a series win against England when the heat was on. Fact that we are not as good in the ODI version of the game matters way less but it will get treated as the end of the world.

  • Dummy4 on October 5, 2012, 17:04 GMT

    Ultimately, if you would ask me, would I rather that SA is good at ODIs and Tests or T20s, I would choose Tests and ODIs. If you asked me if I would rather be good in series or tournaments or series, I would say series. Like it or not, that is the cricket side that SA has built. We are a force in ODIs and Tests, when we can use our top line bowlers more than 24 balls each, and when fielding and simply staying at the crease are rewarded more.

    I don't want to see SA forfeit everything they have achieved just for a taste of T20 success. Truth is, Parnell, Levi and Behaardien all were poor (incl. Kallis and Amla as well), but we need them to play, so they can be great crickets IN THE FUTURE. Lets hope it pays off, because it hasn't so far.

  • Hitesh on October 5, 2012, 11:55 GMT

    Had SA been in the Group1, they would have easily topped the group and would have reached the Semis..that would have allowed them to choke as well:)

  • UtKal on October 5, 2012, 11:36 GMT

    I was expecting to see SA in SF's but De Villiers foolish captainship made the team to pack their bags my view these foolowing are the reasons :-

    1. Kallis and Amla could have been open in all the matches. (Levi is a big qas, is & will be a big flop in sub continent pitches.)

    2. Fa Duplesis could have played in all matches and in the position 3. Din't the coach and captain watch him in IPL 2012 ????

    3. De Villiers could have played @ 4th position in all matches. He is one of the best player in sub continent pitches and hav loads of experince playing in IPL.

    4. Albie Morkel is a gr8 player in sub continet matches jst rewind ipl 2012 banglore vs chennai match if u want to check his capabilities.

    5. Team composition could have been 1.Amla 2.Kallis 3,Fa Duplesis 4.De Villiers 5.Duminy 6.Behradin 7.Albie 8.Botha 9.Parnll 10.Steyn 11.Morne

    Aneways by gone is bygone :( SA team u broke my heart :( I am from india.

  • Dummy4 on October 5, 2012, 9:36 GMT

    SA needs to understand the format. SA can't even score 150 in t20. its all about run. more run more chances to win. they don't know how to bowl in depth. they make same mistakes in every game. dat's y they suffer in odi as well. abd is taking 2 much pressure n wants to be hero but he is becoming zero. he should lead n bat rather dan wkt. keeping. now he can't do anything. sa don't want to make things rather want things to happen n it happens in losing. such a ugly t20 team i've never seen. but they r truly a grt team in test, no doubt. top batsmen, top bowlers, everything they have 4 test.

  • Walter on October 5, 2012, 8:22 GMT

    The problem is that SA are usually the team to beat. And in crunch matches the 'underdogs' seem to pull off amazing feats. Pakistan were average last T20 wc and only when they faces SA did they rock up and pull off a blinder. That momentum carried and they became the champions. New Zealnd in the last world cup basicly did the same. SA stumbled and NZ went for the kill. On any other day SA would beat them, but for some reason the opposition brings their a Game to the plate. That said, SA dont do themselves any favours by getting ruffled by this extra energy the opposition brings and subsequently SA folds. If SA can keep that killer instinct they have outside of big tournements they will be almost impossible to beat.

  • Dummy4 on October 5, 2012, 7:17 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster, I too dislike the "Choker" tag. But it is a matter of fact. SA are ranked the #1 in the world in the various formats due to hard work and excellent cricket played, but at tournaments they invariably choke. The Kiwis have beaten SA most notably in World Cups, outside of World Cup games the Proteas virtually own them. As much as I enjoy the spectacle of the World Cup Tournaments, I do wish that my Proteas bring home a trophy and stop choking at world cups.

  • sam on October 5, 2012, 4:43 GMT

    It seems nothing or no one can halt South Africa's 'C'-(curse,choke....whatever?),in big tournaments. Even a good coach like GK is at a loss as to why a team like SA,one of the best in all forms just can't seem to go the distance and claim the big prize in multi-nation tournaments in spite of promising much each time.Destiny's biggest enemy perhaps....

  • joseph on October 5, 2012, 3:04 GMT

    The team doe not look good. What happened to SMITH and TAHIR?. Need Klusener at the end...

  • Paul on October 5, 2012, 1:14 GMT

    Behardien a success? You're kidding me, Gary. He's slow, a nudger rather than a hitter, unsure at this level and a distinct liability in an international T20 middle order.

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