October 5, 2009

South Africa's strength is their weakness

Why the ability to formulate a plan and stick to it may be at the root of South Africa's failures in multi-team tournaments
42

After their failed chase against England that dumped them out of the Champions Trophy, Graeme Smith and Mickey Arthur, South Africa's captain and coach, were asked if they had considered sending in a pinch-hitter to get them going in the early overs. Yes, they said, the idea had been considered, and abandoned.

South Africa were chasing 324, and Herschelle Gibbs fell in the seventh over with the score at 42. Jacques Kallis then batted until the 12th, and during his stay South Africa scored at 4.55 per over. JP Duminy came out to bat when AB de Villers got out at 142, with South Africa needing to score 7.5 an over; and when Duminy left in the 37th over, having scored 24 off 33 balls, the asking-rate had climbed to over 9.

Could South Africa have done it differently? Could Roelof van der Merwe, who has acquired a reputation for his golf-style clubbing, have been sent up the order with a licence to hit? Van der Merwe ended up batting at No. 9, would you believe, behind Johan Botha, at a time when South Africa needed more than 12 an over. He was yorked for zero. Or could Albie Morkel, South Africa's modern-day Lance Klusener, have been sent up?

But that would not have been the South African way. That would have meant deviating from The Plan. And The Plan, Smith explained, had always been for Morkel to bat in the batting Powerplay, to be taken around the 42nd over.

The plan had been similar with Klusener is his glory days. Let the specialists, and whichever other allrounder was in the side do the job till almost the end, and then unleash Klusener in the last few overs. And how well it worked. Except, of course, when it really mattered. The memory of that last-over run-out in the 1999 World Cup semi-final often obscures the bigger blooper. Why on earth was Klusener, who ended up with a 16-ball 31, left to do so much so late? Why was he held back until the 45th over, and not sent in in the 41st, when Jonty Rhodes fell? Of course, that would have been against The Plan.

No, "choke" is not the word for what happened against England a week or so ago. That happened in a Champions Trophy game in a different year. From 192 for 1 in 37 overs chasing 261, South Africa fell 11 runs short with four wickets still standing. Against England it was the bowlers who cost South Africa the match. But we will never know if a more radical approach to the chase would have made a difference, because the South Africans would rather die wondering than depart from the familiar.

It would be wrong to say that nothing has changed. This is not a team of prototypes. In Duminy and Hashim Amla they have two batsmen of flair and wristiness, in de Villiers they have a middle-order adventurer. Their pace attack is more varied now, and they even have a spinner who sometimes bowls to take wickets. But while the skills have changed, the method remains the same.

There is a compelling case for sticking to the method, of course. After all, it has brought enormous success. Since their re-induction in 1992, South Africa have been a formidable team in all forms of the game, and particularly in one-day cricket. Through the 1990s they had the best success-rate in ODIs, and in this decade, with a win-loss ration of 1.83, they have been second only to the Australians. Why tamper with a successful formula and risk failure and perhaps ridicule?

So it's Kallis at No. 3, five overs each for the opening bowlers, no spinners in the bowling Powerplays, and Morkel to be relied on to send the ball over the ropes in the batting Powerplay (to be taken in the last 10 overs). Through the course of his last press conference, Smith almost admitted that South Africa were trying to set up the game for Morkel. It was an astounding admission.

Presumably this is a strategy based on two match-winning innings from Morkel in Australia earlier this year. On both occasions, he batted at No. 8 and during the batting Powerplay, while South Africa were chasing. In Melbourne he blasted an 18-ball 40 when South Africa required 51 off 36 balls. He repeated the performance a few days later in Sydney, producing a 22-ball 40 in similar circumstances.

South Africa have been good in identifying certain patterns for success, now they must find a pattern in their failures

Morkel hasn't repeated his heroics since. His highest score in his last 10 matches has been a 32-ball 29. Yet South Africa continue to rely on their No. 8 batsman to deliver them. Chasing 320, would you rather get ahead of the game by the 40th over or leave it to your final hope?

This is perhaps harsh on Smith, who has taken South African cricket forward in many ways. And it is perhaps too much to expect him to break free of his environment. South Africa remains a largely conformist and risk-averse society. Over the last week I have spoken to a number of South Africans - former cricketers, administrators, writers and academicians - and they have all spoken about the structure and rigidity of South African society, and the respect for order and the old ways. Most leading cricketers, at least those who have been in a position to make decisions, are products of the public-school system, where considerable emphasis is laid on the traditional values.

There are exceptions, of course, but South Africa has not by and large been a land of free-thinkers or inventors. Even the liberal party sat in Parliament during the apartheid years. And the South African life by and large falls mostly into familiar patterns.

Sportsmen too are shaped by their society. When asked why the Pakistani cricket team was so unpredictable, Younis Khan, an endearingly sincere man, gave a simple yet profound response: when our nation is so volatile, how can our cricket team be any different? For years Indian cricketers carried a soft and nearly reverential approach to their opponents, England and Australia in particular - a reflection of national diffidence.

Sticking to a method isn't unique to the South African cricket team. The Springboks have remained pre-eminent in rugby by playing a physical and robust style shorn of flair and creativity, and as long as they continue to succeed, there will be little reason to change.

South African cricketers, however, face an interesting challenge. In many ways they have modelled their game on the tough and athletic brand of cricket played by the Australians, and have found a huge amount of success with it. But yet, on crucial occasions, particularly in world tournaments where they have had to deal with multiple teams, they have been brought down by their inflexibility and inability to go outside the box and think on their feet.

Their success in bilateral contests and repeated failure in multi-team contests cannot be wished away as incidental. They have been good in identifying certain patterns for success; now they must find a pattern in their failures. They can begin by asking themselves if their strength isn't occasionally their weakness.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Salomon on October 6, 2009, 18:32 GMT

    I agree that SA stick to much to their plan. It was already evident while they were bowling against England. They stuck with the spinners who leaked runs, and used the most ecanomical bowler, Kallis (who also took a wicket) for only 3 overs. Smith must think a bit more on his feet.

  • Amol_Gh on October 6, 2009, 17:27 GMT

    1.As I SA-fan I liked this insightful article, but the Sociological-effect I'm not sure as I am not an expert on sociology but someone who is, has already said what he had to say (see somewhere below).

    2. BUT... I personally believe NO such thing exists such as a 'Pinch-hitter', especially in the top order. If such a thing exists, then why are there SIX specialist Batsmen needlessly employed ? And if the 'Pinch-hitter' is so talented that he can hit almost all unplayeable balls out of the ground, then why not play him in the top-3 ***ALWAYS*** ? I think the concept of 'Pinch-hitter' is just pop-psychology and nothing else.

  • ngdaddikar on October 6, 2009, 12:54 GMT

    We are looking for "patterns" where none exists. SA might win the next two ICC tournaments and then we will look for "reasons" for their success. Good luck with these stupid endeavors. I just like to watch good cricket.

  • Wango on October 6, 2009, 10:36 GMT

    I agree there is too much rigidity in South African cricket. There is too much structure and preparation and a desire for a 'settled' side. International cricket is fast furious and intense. You have to keep up with the pace and I think south africa falls short here. When you are playing your natural game and you are relaxed and enjoying yourself then you will do well this is what they need to do. They need to take more risks. South Africa DO have the potential to play well on the big occassion. Infact on the very biggest occasion (chasing 435) they did it successfully. How? I think here lies the answer: As Graeme Smith said after the match "..you can't sit down and plan to chase 434". Thats right Graeme! STOP PLANNING every little thing and go out there and play your natural attacking game and dont leave it to Albie and Boucher!

  • coachescorner on October 6, 2009, 7:33 GMT

    This article started of so well and then the old story of blaming everything on the past. Well why don't we just blame the ozone problem on the old SA as well while we at it! Folk I believe it is a matter of coaching & captaincy, take nothing away from Mickey Arthur and Greame Smith respectively, however other international teams implemented the test vs. one day captain and it worked for them. It is a fact that the two games in both strategy and implementation are completely different set ups and needs different "think tanks". So with this in mind - yes SA toyed with the idea of captaincy in the past and maybe Mickey's presentation to the SA Cricket on 30 October should be that - "let's look at a different captain" or "what does my coaching program look like?" - In closure "438" in Darryl Cullinan's words"you don't chase 400 if you are a bunch of chokers" - wonder if the social intelligence came through on that day Mr. Bal? Have an awesome day Cheers

  • Lionhearted on October 6, 2009, 4:07 GMT

    First of all excellent job Sambit.Thogh i am a Pakistani yet i have been idealizing Southafrican side right from a very early age.The reason behind that probably was the charisma of the players like Lance Klusner and Jonty Rhodes.Though that time is gone bt i still find a jonty in DeVilliers and a Klusner in Morkel.i had that very feeling right from the start of the South African innings against england that they need a basher like Van der Merwe at the start just to give them a flier at the start but i was disappointed to see SouthAfrica sticking to the same old plan leaving everything at the backend when the pressure is enormous.I wonder how can Morkel perform under such immense pressure.But i guess you were very right when you said their stregnth is their weakness and a home advantage is a home disadvantage for them.

  • hsukhadia on October 5, 2009, 22:44 GMT

    Mr. Sambit Bal may be true about the Cricket team but I am doubtful if he qualified enough to comment about the country or society.

  • daager on October 5, 2009, 21:59 GMT

    "The structure and rigidity of South African society, and the respect for order and the old ways"

    What? I think a good analysis of cricket and as for why we seem to fail in big tournaments I completely agree with you, we are far too rigid in our approach when sometimes the situation demands innovation, but a couple of your remarks about SA are far off the mark. The above couldn't be further from the truth. Stick to cricket mate.

  • Dinker-cktlover on October 5, 2009, 21:01 GMT

    I have read the article and all 32 comments posted so far. The article is excellent and almost all responses echo my view. BUT i was searching for any reference to the ONE time SA have played out of box. 2007 WC....they started attcking from the word go and eneded up at 20/5 before 10th over in the SF against Aus....everyone remebers 99WC SF(who can forget it) but no mention regarding this match which was played just 2.5 yeasr earlier..... considering that performance is rigidity SA's real problem?thye have been atrocious when they tried to play out of box...so whats is it with this best side in the world????will we ever know....????responses invited.....

  • Solomaverick on October 5, 2009, 19:51 GMT

    Firstly, excellent article Sambit - I have never agreed with the ''CHOKER'' tag but never had a better term for South Africa's continual failure.

    Nduru, as a former South African, I can certainly vouch for Sambit's sociological accuracy. South African mentality is incredibly difficult to adjust (glacial pace) - people there do everything because that is what their father and their fathers father did ad nauseum. I was a conservationist, and not all the contrary proof in the world could change the ''facts'' delivered to a South African by his parents. Mandela as an example of non-conformity! Please, use a better example such as Bishop Tutu who conforms to morality as opposed to the current ruling party. Society condoning violence? You're making the presumption that a society exists - 70 murders a day makes a 'society' not!

  • Salomon on October 6, 2009, 18:32 GMT

    I agree that SA stick to much to their plan. It was already evident while they were bowling against England. They stuck with the spinners who leaked runs, and used the most ecanomical bowler, Kallis (who also took a wicket) for only 3 overs. Smith must think a bit more on his feet.

  • Amol_Gh on October 6, 2009, 17:27 GMT

    1.As I SA-fan I liked this insightful article, but the Sociological-effect I'm not sure as I am not an expert on sociology but someone who is, has already said what he had to say (see somewhere below).

    2. BUT... I personally believe NO such thing exists such as a 'Pinch-hitter', especially in the top order. If such a thing exists, then why are there SIX specialist Batsmen needlessly employed ? And if the 'Pinch-hitter' is so talented that he can hit almost all unplayeable balls out of the ground, then why not play him in the top-3 ***ALWAYS*** ? I think the concept of 'Pinch-hitter' is just pop-psychology and nothing else.

  • ngdaddikar on October 6, 2009, 12:54 GMT

    We are looking for "patterns" where none exists. SA might win the next two ICC tournaments and then we will look for "reasons" for their success. Good luck with these stupid endeavors. I just like to watch good cricket.

  • Wango on October 6, 2009, 10:36 GMT

    I agree there is too much rigidity in South African cricket. There is too much structure and preparation and a desire for a 'settled' side. International cricket is fast furious and intense. You have to keep up with the pace and I think south africa falls short here. When you are playing your natural game and you are relaxed and enjoying yourself then you will do well this is what they need to do. They need to take more risks. South Africa DO have the potential to play well on the big occassion. Infact on the very biggest occasion (chasing 435) they did it successfully. How? I think here lies the answer: As Graeme Smith said after the match "..you can't sit down and plan to chase 434". Thats right Graeme! STOP PLANNING every little thing and go out there and play your natural attacking game and dont leave it to Albie and Boucher!

  • coachescorner on October 6, 2009, 7:33 GMT

    This article started of so well and then the old story of blaming everything on the past. Well why don't we just blame the ozone problem on the old SA as well while we at it! Folk I believe it is a matter of coaching & captaincy, take nothing away from Mickey Arthur and Greame Smith respectively, however other international teams implemented the test vs. one day captain and it worked for them. It is a fact that the two games in both strategy and implementation are completely different set ups and needs different "think tanks". So with this in mind - yes SA toyed with the idea of captaincy in the past and maybe Mickey's presentation to the SA Cricket on 30 October should be that - "let's look at a different captain" or "what does my coaching program look like?" - In closure "438" in Darryl Cullinan's words"you don't chase 400 if you are a bunch of chokers" - wonder if the social intelligence came through on that day Mr. Bal? Have an awesome day Cheers

  • Lionhearted on October 6, 2009, 4:07 GMT

    First of all excellent job Sambit.Thogh i am a Pakistani yet i have been idealizing Southafrican side right from a very early age.The reason behind that probably was the charisma of the players like Lance Klusner and Jonty Rhodes.Though that time is gone bt i still find a jonty in DeVilliers and a Klusner in Morkel.i had that very feeling right from the start of the South African innings against england that they need a basher like Van der Merwe at the start just to give them a flier at the start but i was disappointed to see SouthAfrica sticking to the same old plan leaving everything at the backend when the pressure is enormous.I wonder how can Morkel perform under such immense pressure.But i guess you were very right when you said their stregnth is their weakness and a home advantage is a home disadvantage for them.

  • hsukhadia on October 5, 2009, 22:44 GMT

    Mr. Sambit Bal may be true about the Cricket team but I am doubtful if he qualified enough to comment about the country or society.

  • daager on October 5, 2009, 21:59 GMT

    "The structure and rigidity of South African society, and the respect for order and the old ways"

    What? I think a good analysis of cricket and as for why we seem to fail in big tournaments I completely agree with you, we are far too rigid in our approach when sometimes the situation demands innovation, but a couple of your remarks about SA are far off the mark. The above couldn't be further from the truth. Stick to cricket mate.

  • Dinker-cktlover on October 5, 2009, 21:01 GMT

    I have read the article and all 32 comments posted so far. The article is excellent and almost all responses echo my view. BUT i was searching for any reference to the ONE time SA have played out of box. 2007 WC....they started attcking from the word go and eneded up at 20/5 before 10th over in the SF against Aus....everyone remebers 99WC SF(who can forget it) but no mention regarding this match which was played just 2.5 yeasr earlier..... considering that performance is rigidity SA's real problem?thye have been atrocious when they tried to play out of box...so whats is it with this best side in the world????will we ever know....????responses invited.....

  • Solomaverick on October 5, 2009, 19:51 GMT

    Firstly, excellent article Sambit - I have never agreed with the ''CHOKER'' tag but never had a better term for South Africa's continual failure.

    Nduru, as a former South African, I can certainly vouch for Sambit's sociological accuracy. South African mentality is incredibly difficult to adjust (glacial pace) - people there do everything because that is what their father and their fathers father did ad nauseum. I was a conservationist, and not all the contrary proof in the world could change the ''facts'' delivered to a South African by his parents. Mandela as an example of non-conformity! Please, use a better example such as Bishop Tutu who conforms to morality as opposed to the current ruling party. Society condoning violence? You're making the presumption that a society exists - 70 murders a day makes a 'society' not!

  • davidintheusa on October 5, 2009, 18:52 GMT

    Our top batsmen of the last generation seldom found it easy to change gear - we have ben taught froma young age to "build an innings" and not play the risks. Today's generation seem to mark their mark with an immediate impact before falling back into familiar patterns of the previous generation.

    I therefore agree that sending in Morkel or vd Merwe earlier in the innings to try and relieve the pressure toward the end is a gr8 strategy which would allow the top order to apply their skills as they know best. I know I was screaming at my TV here in Los Angeles for Morkel to be sent in when AB de Villiers lost his wicket - cleary nobody heard me!!

    Talent tends to be curbed when there is a high fear of failure. Kallis is a gr8 example of this. When he first appeared he waited around for no man. He was intent on getting as many runs as quickly as possible - then he joined the national team and all that seemed to change.

  • Kirstenfan on October 5, 2009, 18:07 GMT

    Hi Sambit

    Great article. In a similar sense, you wonder why SA batted so slowly against NZ and didn't even use the full powerplay when they knew that NRR could be a factor?

    As a South African I am really worried about how predictable we are and how we don't kill the opposition - batsmen like Duminy cannot use as many balls as he does in a one day innings - you just increase the rate and leave more pressure to the end. Maybe Duminy and Gibbs should swap places?

    Cheers

  • amp64 on October 5, 2009, 18:07 GMT

    Mr Bal, there is a large element of truth in your analysis of the cricket team.

    But your comments about South African society as a whole are at best speculative, based on sketchy anecdotal evidence, and smack of nationalised stereotyping that borders on the insulting.

    "South Africa has not by and large been a land of free-thinkers or inventors."

    That comment, sir, is not acceptable. Given your job', I doubt you know much about South African innovations in legal, technological, mining, medical, artistic, social, and political fields. I suggest you peddle your generalisations with your friends over your dinner-table, where they belong.

  • JagguB on October 5, 2009, 18:04 GMT

    Smith is the most resistant captain SA had since their return to Intenational cricket. He never changes his batting lineup even when situation demands the change. Even in T20 WC Morkel was coming after Boucher and he never had time to settle . Now after he got 2 spinners he is including them in each and every match,SA bowling really missed the experience and talent of Ntini in this CT.

  • 800506 on October 5, 2009, 17:56 GMT

    An excellent article and insightful and I agree that sportsman are shaped by their society.

  • neiljturner on October 5, 2009, 17:54 GMT

    Really excellent analysis, Sambit. If I may add a couple of insights, though:

    1) South Africa have from time to time experimented with a different gameplan. Take a look at ODI #1199 (vs Australia, Bloemfontein, 1997), where Klusener opened and Symcox (!) came in at 3, and they ended up with their highest ever (to that point) score against the Aussies. Such a pity it was a dead rubber.

    2) When, after the 1999 World Cup, South Africa started using Klusener as a middle order batsman (the 2000/01 series in Australia, for example), his form started to decline badly and the view was that he became much less effective when given too much time at the crease. Presumably the current management are worried about doing the same thing to Morkel.

    Surely the thing that needs to be addressed is not the timing of sending players in, but the attitudes of the batsmen at the crease? The likes of Kallis should be encouraged to take more risks and bat aggressively, knowing there's depth to come.

  • Robeli on October 5, 2009, 16:23 GMT

    As a South African, this is soooo true, it is scarry!

  • rbhattarai on October 5, 2009, 16:00 GMT

    i agree with mr sambit to some extent, but chasing 325 runs and sending pinch hitter to do the job i dont think would be fair. if batsmen could not do their job i dont think pinch hitter would have done it. its just not about the batting order or being flexible -- the way they played in all 3 matches were not up to the level they are capable of. and about the social thing and all the other stuffs i liked it quite a lot.

  • venkatr_11 on October 5, 2009, 15:40 GMT

    Good read Mr.Sambit. I only wonder why no one from the Southafrican team management thinks this way! As u said, whatever happens, they keep following the same plans, which is ridiculous at times. I wish that they think about this aspect of their cricket seriously and come up with innovative stuff on the field.

  • rkc86 on October 5, 2009, 14:47 GMT

    excellent article!!we want more of this froom ur mr Sambit

  • rkc86 on October 5, 2009, 14:40 GMT

    Once again Sambit was spot on about SA's weakness.They have a group of amazingly talented players like G Smith,JP Duminy,A Morkel,W Parnell,D Steyn-but somehow its the way the manage these players to coordinate between them is what creating their failure in mulinational tournament.I disagree with some people that SA need new faces and replace them with the players such as H Gibbs,J Kallis,M Boucher.SA's success does not depend on particular group of players.It is the way the organise the team which Sambit had already discussed about.Kallis,Boucher,Gibbs,Smith's are still delivering,they are giving the team what it demands to them!So why replacing them with new faces yet?SA do have a balance team,all they need is good organisation from the management,being a bit more adventerous,probably bit more brave and favour from luck in big occassions.Good luck to Mr Smith and co.

  • rigel2 on October 5, 2009, 12:47 GMT

    Excellent article Sambit. I never thought of it like that but your insight into explaining South Africa's failures in multi team tournaments was brilliant. Your example of Lance Klusener being unleashed too late in the 1999 tied World Cup semi final was most poignant. As an Aussie, I am eternally grateful for that tactical blunder by South Africa.

  • Nduru on October 5, 2009, 12:33 GMT

    OK, some interesting points, but please, please Sambit (and other cricket writers) leave the sociology to professionals and quit making quasi-sociological analyses in your commentaries. The problem I have with them is that they are based on reductionist generalisations and half truths which can be dangerous if swallowed uncritically. I am not a South African, but I am a scholar of southern African society (so this is not a knee-jerk South African reaction). I think you will find that South Africa is an extremely innovative and non-conformist society, Mr Bal. If South Africans were all so conformist then how did they manage to produce Nelson Mandela and overthrow apartheid? And surely if they were so conformist it would be easier to bring crime under control, Mr Bal - since I assume society does not condone violent crime? And what the hell is your point about the liberal party sitting in Parliament during aparthied? Enough said!

  • fisherking on October 5, 2009, 12:15 GMT

    It is not just that South Africa play the same way BUT we are also very reluctant to change the players. Even though the current crop of players have failed on the tournament stage yet again we will play the same team the same way in the next tournament. You only need to look at teams like australia in this Champions trophy to see that they go for it from the start and do not rely on a powerplay at the end of the innings when most of the big hitters are out. We have many players excelling in the one day game but we are not willing to give them a chance. For batsmen Gulam Bodi has been consistently one of the best one day players in the domestic league for the last few years but he does not get a game. du Plessis is another batsmen who should replace Duminy who fails more often than not. There are many bowlers who are as good if not better at the one day game than the current selection but again its "jobs for the boys". Cricket South Africa needs to embrace change before it is too late

  • mohit_kabra on October 5, 2009, 11:51 GMT

    one of the most insightful and thought provoking article i have read.. i always beleived that SA are not chokers, but their lack of success was not also bad luck.., i now think i have got a good reason to the baffling performance of SA in world tournaments..!!

  • DWP1 on October 5, 2009, 11:44 GMT

    I agree completely with your comments Sambit. SA probably has the strongest ODI team we've had since perhaps since readmission, particularly due to the side's flexibility. However for some reason you don't see the side make use of all this flexibility to its full potential. Examples: 1) Even when chasing 220-240 they ussually still leave themselves over 7 to get of the last 10 overs, despite having loads of wickets in hand. 2) Despite batting down to 10 (Parnell is useful) they almost never risk sending Roelof / Albe up the order 3) Despite Morkel terrible bowling stats over the last year he ALWAYS gets at least four overs, despite the side having 7 bowling options 4) Spinners never bowl in power plays 5) Now matter how effective Duminy's bowling is, he rarely gets more than 2 overs 6) Botha will keep darting the ball in even when the batsmen have figured him out (see T20 WC semi where Afridi kept hitting the faster one over cover for four)

  • Madselector on October 5, 2009, 11:21 GMT

    Excellent article. Instead of writing endless articles accusing them as Chokers as they did after SA's semi final exit during their T20 world cup campaign, Sambit has tried to analyze the possible reasons behind their failure at big stages. Well said Sambit.

  • PodiBanda on October 5, 2009, 10:14 GMT

    In bilateral contests, You only need to analyze a Single team. And you have enough time to Practice those plans. But in multilateral contests with many teams You don't get enough time to prepare with so many players with different strengths and weaknesses. So you need to bring out of the box thinking. Australia is so successful because they have learned to balance this. ie. Nice balance between pre-programmed ROBOT and Human. But SA has always being pre programmed ROBOTS. When encountered with unknown situations they are clueless (individually and collectively), Just keep on executing the same old program. If they want to be successful in future let there players to play without pre conceived plans. you can start with the next bi-lateral tournament.Let the Batsmen walk in to the pitch without pre-knowledge of the balls he's going to receive. Let him plan on the go. This approach will certainly drop your bi-lateral percentages. But certainly will improve your tournament percentages.

  • carpey28 on October 5, 2009, 9:38 GMT

    One of the most insightful and intelligent pieces Ive ever read about cricket. When I think about the black caps and how they reflect New Zealand society. Kiwi's have this saying "kiwi ingenuity" and I believe this ability to think outside the square does show through in our national team. For example, Dipak Patel opening the bowling back in the 92 world cup, Craig McMillan's square batting, and more recently Danny promoting himself up the order against Pakistan. On the flip side this creativity can backfire and you can end up looking like a fool.

    Cheers Sambit

  • Winsome on October 5, 2009, 8:32 GMT

    Kallis always seems to be the fall-guy for them when they fail to chase. But considering Gibbs, Smith and De Villiers could be considered big hitters, I don't see why it should be him that is blamed necessarily.

    I am sure that Smith couldn't have meant to imply that they are relying on Morkel, that is very odd. Promoting pinch-hitters is a pretty risky strategy in any case. I would hate the Aussies to try that with Mitch. The first 6 batsmen are there for a reason.

  • IndianCricLover on October 5, 2009, 8:16 GMT

    Much analysis seems to have gone into this article. South African board should read this and look no further to find the reason's behind their failure in multi team events.

  • mumbaiguy79 on October 5, 2009, 8:08 GMT

    I think the formula should be simple for SA. Just play every game in a tournament or any ICC event as if its a match in an ODI series. SA have got a wonderful record over the years doing this. After all cricket is more than skills and luck, its also a game that requires some thing between your ears.

  • AsifRathod on October 5, 2009, 7:27 GMT

    Good article Sambit. Totally, agree with u, that South Africa is playing according to their game plan without changing it. Sometime I feel SA team doesn't have Plan B at all. Once opposition start attacking them, they seems like helpless team. In big tournament this thing happens more frequently. No, doubt they are the best team in two nation series by far, but some how, they can't put on same show in big tournaments. I disagree with one point which is abt A Morkel. I think SA team using him very late in their innings. They are using him as a big hitter batsman, and he comes in some very tight situation where, he has to hit the ball hard without much thinking. They should send him, at no. 3 or 4 as experiment. I saw many of his innings, and he's looking like technically sound batsman. SA team should try this move, it might work for them, and they might start winning in big tournaments. :)

  • 68704 on October 5, 2009, 6:42 GMT

    Sridhar wrote Excellent piece Sambit. I think it is important to understand the South African success against Australia in recent times. The success was largely brought up by Australia"s inability to take charge of Botha"s fast, flat deliveries.(Of course later Botha"s action was seen as suspect}.South Africa believes that the whole world will struggle against spin the way Australia did and you could see the difference in the way that both SriLanka and England handled the spin and posted massive totals that left South Africa short Morkel notwithstanding.From the days of Cronje, South Africa has been an excellent but predictable side.For a long time there was a depressing familiarity to south africa's bowling. - 4 bowlers at 80 miles per hour ...Today they have well balanced side and have not lost out to retirements or injury. Now is their time to win.Australia even though it is currently doing well in the Champions trophy is too dependent on Ponting"s batting.Its now or never SA !

  • Chrishan on October 5, 2009, 6:33 GMT

    A well written article indeed. I still remember the days when South Africa used to rely ever so often on a pitch hinter. When the first wicket went down I remember burly Pat Symcox walk out into the middle and hammer a few sixes. In the recent past I believe India experimented with Irfan Pathan coming in at #3 and doing very well at that position. The pinch hitter is a key player, but with the introduction of the batting power plays most teams feel that a genuine batsman can see the team home during these overs and thus the pinch hitter has been forgotten. I strongly believe that when chasing a large total you must go at it hard and then "jog" over the finish line, not the other way around. When you do the latter you leave too much to do with too little time.

  • Ajay42 on October 5, 2009, 6:15 GMT

    Wonderful article, Mr Bal! Innovation is thename of the game today and if you stagnate, you die. Pakistan's strength is it's unpredictability, while SA will always be beaten when it matters, by the flair teams. The ultimate combination, of course, is Aus...systematic with an ability to think out of the box. The tragedy is that SA never seem to learn, wven after seventeen years searching for a title of relevance. It is interesting that the other predictable side, England, is in the same one day conundrum...

  • Theena on October 5, 2009, 5:56 GMT

    Interesting point of view, Mr Bal. I'd love to know what Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, et al think about South Africa's failures in tournaments such as this.

  • Sharath_Sher on October 5, 2009, 5:36 GMT

    Well said Sambit. Their prime example of rigidity is Jacque Kallis. His role was different in IPL 2 and he succeded. He played with freedom that is something not associated with him when he dons South African colours. SA is too predictable since the Cronje days and its time now for them to come out of this mindset.

  • Nipun on October 5, 2009, 4:52 GMT

    Wonderful perspective.More of such please.

  • Mina_Anand on October 5, 2009, 4:43 GMT

    I may be in the minority, but I have never ever felt this 'national diffidence' that is so often touted about. Nor have I felt 'soft and reverential' towards anyone (other than our cricketers, of course !)

    Seriously, there is a feeling of immense pride and a sense of privilege that one is born an Indian. Where else would you find a Gandhi, an Akbar, a Jhansi Ki Rani, a Tagore, a Sarojini Naidu....the list is endless.

    I'm quite sure that the Lala Amarnaths, the Vijay Hazares, the Umrigars, the Pataudis, and later on the Gavaskars, the Kapil Devs, the Viswanaths, never took a backward step - on or off the cricket field.

    Mina Anand

  • Mina_Anand on October 5, 2009, 4:41 GMT

    I beg to differ with Sambit when he says : 'Sportsmen too are shaped by their society'.

    The simple fact is, that sport, and in particular, cricket, is - in Harsha Bhogle's words "Unscripted drama".

    If we knew how a team is going to play, judging by its 'societal influence' - then we could all turn to punting - and become millionaires !

    If we go by the 'society shaping' theory, then India should be winning every game, bolstered by its pride in its rising economy.

    Except for Australia (in the last decade), and the West Indies, in their heyday, there is no cricket team which has been consistently winning.

    Unpredictability, drama, the gamut of human passions, the beauty of the game, is what makes cricket so enjoyable.

    Continued...

  • Chedchatri on October 5, 2009, 4:05 GMT

    This has to be amongst the most intelligent and thought provoking pieces I have read on cricket.......Good job Sambit!

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  • Chedchatri on October 5, 2009, 4:05 GMT

    This has to be amongst the most intelligent and thought provoking pieces I have read on cricket.......Good job Sambit!

  • Mina_Anand on October 5, 2009, 4:41 GMT

    I beg to differ with Sambit when he says : 'Sportsmen too are shaped by their society'.

    The simple fact is, that sport, and in particular, cricket, is - in Harsha Bhogle's words "Unscripted drama".

    If we knew how a team is going to play, judging by its 'societal influence' - then we could all turn to punting - and become millionaires !

    If we go by the 'society shaping' theory, then India should be winning every game, bolstered by its pride in its rising economy.

    Except for Australia (in the last decade), and the West Indies, in their heyday, there is no cricket team which has been consistently winning.

    Unpredictability, drama, the gamut of human passions, the beauty of the game, is what makes cricket so enjoyable.

    Continued...

  • Mina_Anand on October 5, 2009, 4:43 GMT

    I may be in the minority, but I have never ever felt this 'national diffidence' that is so often touted about. Nor have I felt 'soft and reverential' towards anyone (other than our cricketers, of course !)

    Seriously, there is a feeling of immense pride and a sense of privilege that one is born an Indian. Where else would you find a Gandhi, an Akbar, a Jhansi Ki Rani, a Tagore, a Sarojini Naidu....the list is endless.

    I'm quite sure that the Lala Amarnaths, the Vijay Hazares, the Umrigars, the Pataudis, and later on the Gavaskars, the Kapil Devs, the Viswanaths, never took a backward step - on or off the cricket field.

    Mina Anand

  • Nipun on October 5, 2009, 4:52 GMT

    Wonderful perspective.More of such please.

  • Sharath_Sher on October 5, 2009, 5:36 GMT

    Well said Sambit. Their prime example of rigidity is Jacque Kallis. His role was different in IPL 2 and he succeded. He played with freedom that is something not associated with him when he dons South African colours. SA is too predictable since the Cronje days and its time now for them to come out of this mindset.

  • Theena on October 5, 2009, 5:56 GMT

    Interesting point of view, Mr Bal. I'd love to know what Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, et al think about South Africa's failures in tournaments such as this.

  • Ajay42 on October 5, 2009, 6:15 GMT

    Wonderful article, Mr Bal! Innovation is thename of the game today and if you stagnate, you die. Pakistan's strength is it's unpredictability, while SA will always be beaten when it matters, by the flair teams. The ultimate combination, of course, is Aus...systematic with an ability to think out of the box. The tragedy is that SA never seem to learn, wven after seventeen years searching for a title of relevance. It is interesting that the other predictable side, England, is in the same one day conundrum...

  • Chrishan on October 5, 2009, 6:33 GMT

    A well written article indeed. I still remember the days when South Africa used to rely ever so often on a pitch hinter. When the first wicket went down I remember burly Pat Symcox walk out into the middle and hammer a few sixes. In the recent past I believe India experimented with Irfan Pathan coming in at #3 and doing very well at that position. The pinch hitter is a key player, but with the introduction of the batting power plays most teams feel that a genuine batsman can see the team home during these overs and thus the pinch hitter has been forgotten. I strongly believe that when chasing a large total you must go at it hard and then "jog" over the finish line, not the other way around. When you do the latter you leave too much to do with too little time.

  • 68704 on October 5, 2009, 6:42 GMT

    Sridhar wrote Excellent piece Sambit. I think it is important to understand the South African success against Australia in recent times. The success was largely brought up by Australia"s inability to take charge of Botha"s fast, flat deliveries.(Of course later Botha"s action was seen as suspect}.South Africa believes that the whole world will struggle against spin the way Australia did and you could see the difference in the way that both SriLanka and England handled the spin and posted massive totals that left South Africa short Morkel notwithstanding.From the days of Cronje, South Africa has been an excellent but predictable side.For a long time there was a depressing familiarity to south africa's bowling. - 4 bowlers at 80 miles per hour ...Today they have well balanced side and have not lost out to retirements or injury. Now is their time to win.Australia even though it is currently doing well in the Champions trophy is too dependent on Ponting"s batting.Its now or never SA !

  • AsifRathod on October 5, 2009, 7:27 GMT

    Good article Sambit. Totally, agree with u, that South Africa is playing according to their game plan without changing it. Sometime I feel SA team doesn't have Plan B at all. Once opposition start attacking them, they seems like helpless team. In big tournament this thing happens more frequently. No, doubt they are the best team in two nation series by far, but some how, they can't put on same show in big tournaments. I disagree with one point which is abt A Morkel. I think SA team using him very late in their innings. They are using him as a big hitter batsman, and he comes in some very tight situation where, he has to hit the ball hard without much thinking. They should send him, at no. 3 or 4 as experiment. I saw many of his innings, and he's looking like technically sound batsman. SA team should try this move, it might work for them, and they might start winning in big tournaments. :)