October 12, 2011

South Africa must seize their chance to shine

They have the players and the leadership, but the board needs to get its house in order
  shares 57

South Africa have not played a match since that fateful evening on March 25th when a canny Kiwi outfit score enough runs and played enough astute cricket to awaken the ghosts that haunt their quarter-final opponents. It was a painful day that began well and deteriorated inexorably. Defeat was inevitable long before the last wicket fell. As much could be gleaned from the faces of the players; pain was paramount. Alas, they had done it again, fallen short in the critical hour. It is a demon in need of death.

South Africa have achieved an enormous amount in the last 17 years. That the limited-overs team is now led by a young man from Affies, in partnership with an Indian lad from Durban, boggles the mind. That their middle-order comrades include a giant of the game and two coloureds from the Eastern Cape is no less inspiring. It is so easy and so tempting to lose sight of that picture; the bloodless revolution is now taken for granted, but at the time of its occurrence was much dreaded, much feared. Not the least beauty, and importance, of sport is its ability to reach across the divide. Cricket especially (a veritable maelstrom) ought to talk of little else.

Doubtless South Africa will be relieved to get back to work. Their season begins on Thursday with a Twenty20 match against the Aussies. Another of the same ilk follows a few days later, then come three ODIs, and finally two Tests, a ridiculous number considering the stature of the contestants. Had the compressed versions been reduced or fewer rest days awarded, a third Test could easily have been arranged. Next the Sri Lankans will play four Tests over the summer holidays. It's a full programme and ought to give the game a lift. Cricket has a chance to make its mark. Over the weekend Bafana Bafana and the Boks were eliminated from prestigious tournaments without scoring a try or a goal between them. The ball-kickers grizzled about the rules of the competition and the muddied oafs groaned about the ref, but salvation lay in their own hands.

As far as cricket is concerned, the team is in better hands, perhaps the best since the return. Gary Kirsten was the right choice as coach. He is firm, tends to use his eyes and ears more than his mouth, understands struggle, respects hard work, and knows the game, ancient and modern. That he is a past Test player and a local helps, but the main thing was to get the best man for the job. CSA did that. By the look of things Kirsten also has an acute sense of timing. India flourished on his watch but have hardly won a game since he left. Kirsten's first task will be to slay the demon. Most likely he will go about his work in a quiet and methodical way, with the psychology hidden. He was criticised in some quarters for letting the top Indian players please themselves at practice and so forth. But the strong don't need to flex muscles. It's about performance not power.

AB de Villiers was the right choice to lead the one-day side and the only regret is that he was not also put in charge of the Test team. His partnership with Kirsten will work because of the contrast in their characters and the mutual respect between them. Graeme Smith seemed to regard his coaches with the affection Greeks reserve for tax men.

de Villiers is ready to take over the Test side but presumably officials wanted to give him a little time to play himself in. Captaincy does change a fellow's life. Apparently only the arrival of a baby has as much impact, and in that case the male is playing a secondary role. Happily de Villiers has bags of energy. He is also a brilliant and combative batsman and an athletic fielder. His main weakness is that he has little experience of captaincy. Like Michael Clarke, though, he is intuitive and has a desire to lead.

Hashim Amla is perfectly suited to the vice-captaincy as well, and can step in to take over the leadership whenever the boss is injured, as is currently the case. Amla will be a superb deputy because he is discreet, humble and does not aspire to the main job. He is also an accomplished batsman. Patronised in his early days, he has tightened his technique and appears well balanced, calm and well placed to score runs against all sorts of bowling on all sorts of pitches in all forms of the game.

Accordingly the team is in good and constant hands. Apart from Smith, who is still at the helm as Test captain, the same group can be in charge for the next five years. Moreover they have at their disposal a side with an impressive batting order, the sharpest new-ball attack in the country, and for the first time in decades, an attacking spinner in Imran Tahir.

Dale Steyn is the best speedster around because he is fast, moves the ball late, and likes batsmen about as much as the Tea Party likes liberals. His merits have long been recognised. Morne Morkel took longer to develop. For an eternity he seemed to lollop to the crease, roll over an arm and deliver sweet nothings. He had the makings of a great fast bowler but did not understand the mechanics. Long limbs require more organisation than their curtailed counterparts.

Until recently Morkel could not find the correct combination of length and aggression. Whenever he pitched up, the delivery was powder puff. Confusion caused a crisis in confidence. Now he pitches a fuller length without losing his bite. Australia and Sri Lanka will be wary of him. South Africa's other main task is to help JP Duminy complete his journey from promise to fulfilment. At present he is trapped midway. Amongst young batsmen he is not alone in that, and the reason is clear - T20 has radically changed the way batsmen learn the game. In every country, except perhaps England, young batsmen are concentrating on developing a wide range of shots, many of them improvised. Those rising through the ranks can become millionaires without playing Test cricket for their country.

It has been the fate of modern batsmen to try to walk, run and sprint at the same time. It has been their fate, too, to be feted before the deed has properly been done. Care needs to be taken lest they become celebrities not champions

Duminy's exceptional ability has been recognised. Sages of the game believe that he is cricket's next great batsman. Unmistakably, though, his career has stalled. He has not suddenly lost his gift or fallen into wanton ways. Just that, like so many peers, in the very time previous generations were consolidating, he has been obliged to expand and explore. It has been the fate of modern batsmen to try to walk, run and sprint at the same time. It has been their fate, too, to be feted before the deed has properly been done. Care needs to be taken lest they become celebrities not champions.

That South Africa has three accomplished tweakers to choose between is a rare blessing. Tahir is a much travelled legspinner, prepared to bowl all day and likely to mop up all except the most competent tails. Johan Botha has emerged as a fine leader and steadily improving batsman, and as an offspinner he is enjoying the ever-growing number of left-handers in the game (most of them actually right-handed, but that is a tale for another day). Paul Harris is the most underestimated of the trio. He plays the clown and has an awkward action, so batsmen tend to take him lightly. It is a mistake because he also keeps an immaculate length and varies his pace cleverly.

AS FAR AS THE TEAM IS CONCERNED, South African cricket is working along the right lines. No such confidence can be held about the administration. It has been a winter of discontent. CSA has endured several convulsions, all of them self-inflicted. Bitter disputation has arisen between the chairman and CEO. Interviewed on radio, Mtutuzeli Nyoka called Gerald Majola a liar, whilst the Sunday Times, a highly respected newspaper, said worse, and added that millions of rands had vanished.

Nor has CSA satisfactorily defended its man. To the bemusement of observers prepared to listen to both sides of the story, it denied that any money was missing beyond a small amount mistakenly used for family travel, and at the same time gave Majola a severe reprimand. Apparently the penalty was given because the CEO had on a few occasions broken the Companies Act. Meanwhile the board is preparing for a second vote of no-confidence in its chairman - the first was overturned after Nyoka appealed to the High Court, which also insisted that an outside audit be organised. As far as can be told, Majola is more sinned against than sinning.

Certainly he failed to inform his employers that he had been given a fat bonus by the IPL's organisers. Accordingly CSA likewise awarded large ex gratia payments. CSA points out that the IPL had to be organised at short notice and that on previous occasions bonuses had been awarded and not declared - for example, during the 2003 World Cup. And it was a success. Still, that does not justify double-dipping. They are happy for journalists to examine the KPMG report, yet reluctant to publish it, thereby fostering doubt.

It is a messy affair. Nyoka is as prickly and political as several of his predecessors. Majola has been in his job a long time and it might be time for a fresh start. Regardless, CSA needs to improve its communications. It's not enough to complain about allegations that sit on the record or to call press conferences or to arrange meetings that critics cannot attend. Whether their chairman is right or merely an angry old man with an agenda, CSA's response has been inadequate. Corruption is rife in South Africa, so suspicion is widespread. Accordingly CSA needs to apply the highest standards of accountability and transparency. Not that the past was lily white - except in terms of skin. The notion that corruption began with liberation is fanciful, and easily countered.

It is to be earnestly hoped that these off-field matters are sorted out so that they do not undermine the new leadership. South African cricket has a chance of soaring in the next few years, a chance that cannot be missed. Moreover the team is in good hands and capable of lifting trophies. But the demons have to be confronted - those in the minds of the players and those wearing collars and ties.

Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • zenboomerang on October 14, 2011, 0:41 GMT

    @landl47... a bit over the top re:Wessels... he had no chance to play for SA as they were banned from Int. cricket... a good cricketer without a job... he joined the Packer circus in the late 70's & played for Oz early 80's... stayed in Oz until SA joined Int. cricket in new era and was SA's first captain after 'the break'... no Aussie surprised by this & many wished him well on his return to play for his homeland... how many other Oz players have been imports?... lol...

  • chris54 on October 13, 2011, 23:19 GMT

    Another excellent article. Keep them coming. I won´t get involved in any childish debate about foreign born players, but I am amazed by a claim from a previous poster, Chris Campling, that South Africans " have a side to compare or even surpass the 1970 team". One could concede that Steyn is equal to Procter as a bowler, but Peter Pollock is way ahead of Morkel, Lindsay better than Boucher, Procter, Barlow and Goddard as all- rounders, without mentioning two of the greatest batsmen of all time. @mr_hag, if the ab´s lose on sunday, it may be down to choking,but if they lose the final to Wales, it will be simply a case of losing to a better team, a team that has the potential to dominate for years, just like the SA cricket team of 1970 could have done.

  • landl47 on October 13, 2011, 14:14 GMT

    @RandyOz: you make these completely untrue statements and expect everyone to just take you at your word. Trott's father and Pietersen's mother were born in England. In fact, Trott had a British passport when he came to England and was never counted as an overseas player. Australia, South Africa and every other country would jump at the chance of selecting players born abroad provided the players qualified under ICC regulations. Australia proved it with Kepler Wessels and SA have just proved it with Imran Tahir, both of whom had far more first-class experience and far less connection with Aus and SA than Trott and Pietersen when they came to England. The argument against is so puerile as to be ludicrous; if a player is good enough and qualifies for selection is a country supposed to say, too bad, you weren't born here? Get used to losing graciously- England have had a lot of practice at it and now it's your turn.

  • bumsonseats on October 13, 2011, 12:51 GMT

    allroundcricketfan. im not sure of your nationality but if u think KP is the best player to play for england i have to differ and to what you perceive as a great/best batter. hes the most flamboyant batter iv seen play for england. as england, like SA dont do flamboyant to well .what i would say he the best batter in the last decade and a bit. as to his buying property in SA i cannot argue. but please ask his england born wife jessica taylor with the highlife of london on their doorstep were they both seem happy to live. both make many millions on uk contracts. ever heard of making a buck out of property you get more for your money in SA than the uk. dpk

  • ashes61 on October 13, 2011, 12:20 GMT

    Contd: So Strauss & Prior are as English as anyone. On Pietersen & Trott we have to give way on the moral argument. Even though there are ENG parents involved & the players would have served a residence period by the time they were picked anyway, and even though each continued to develop his game in the county ch'ship for some years, they were already in the SA 1st class system before moving. It may be ICC-legal but the moral criticisms from S Africans are valid, especially in KP's case. (Politics & quota system? Not mercenaries but ambitious opportunists). With Dernbach & Meaker I haven't checked their age on emigration. If as children/young teens, then Eng have a legitimate claim, even if either was already doing well as a boy cricketer in SA, as only a tiny handful of the top boys make it. So it mostly comes down (morally) to where they learnt their cricket. In most cases, an emigration between, say, 14 & 17 would create the "grey area." We get LOTS of immigrants, esp. from SA!

  • serendipidity on October 13, 2011, 12:16 GMT

    @hris Spot on mate. It was blindingly obvious that KP was going to turn into a batsman with a 50 plus average in tests when he was in SA. Those poms who point to the fact that he was an offie who batted at 8 before he went to England know nothing about the game. And it's likewise absurd to think that Middlesex had any impact on Morgan's development. It's clearly irrelevant that he went over there as an uncapped 19-year-old. Keep up the great comments.

  • ashes61 on October 13, 2011, 12:05 GMT

    Continuing: I don't agree that England has ever been criticised for playing Bopara, Panesar etc. They are English born & no-one hints at any impropriety there - it's those born elsewhere which attract attention. As far as those from Wales or Scot'ld are concerned, we're on safe ground.Cricket is hardly played in Scot'ld (compared to Eng) & those Scottish-born players good enough have always had to play for Eng. Ditto Wales, even more so - Glam'n play in the county ch'ship & the Eng & Wales Crkt Bd (sh'd be ECWB!) covers Wales - which, despite its new Nat'l Assembly & the natural pride of its people, is - & has been for centuries - legally and constitionally part of Eng, for want of a better expression. (Sorry all Taffs!) With Morgan we're on sticky ground - not ICC rules-wise, but morally. He has played for IRE in a W/Cup, after all! So, legal but dodgy. Strauss & Prior cannot possibly be considered "imports" - look at when they arrived (back) in Eng with their parents. Contd ...!

  • ashes61 on October 13, 2011, 11:49 GMT

    For the first time, I really did think we ought to take a hard look at our squad after reading Warren Smith's comments, which sum up the views of many overseas cricket fans on the "Saffers in England" debate. Having seen the (usual) responses, I can understand both points of view. It is definitely a fair debating point - see Mike Atherton in "The Times" today, by the way. International sport should mean what it says: the best of ours agains the best of yours. But with modern travel, emigration trends, historical links, and - it has to be said - SA's quota system of recent times, however, there are going to be more and more "grey areas." The Kolpak legislation has certainly not helped things one bit! Parents' passports and residence as a child seem to be the debating points. So any mention, for example, of Amla, is ridiculous - the descendants of 19th century indentured Indians to Natal are 100% S Africans. Continuing in a 2nd post:

  • AllroundCricketFan on October 13, 2011, 11:27 GMT

    @Optic. I wont disagree with that - Dernbach and Meeker left when they were 10 and 11, so did Prior when he was 7 and Strauss when he was 2. BUT the other SA'ns namely Petersen(Eng's best batsman ever), Trott and Keiswetter were all in their 20's when they chose the UK as their chosen place of residence. Going back to my point, every expat of SA has that love for 'home' and I can assure you these 3 call home SA... Even Petersen has invested his millions in properties all over SA. Tells you alot.

  • bumsonseats on October 13, 2011, 11:06 GMT

    randyOZ. i think when u say no imigrants get thru. tells more signs of your and your countries ignorance, then any non selection policy. for years getting into oz was hard for one reason. but for getting this piece on this page i will not go into that. dpk

  • zenboomerang on October 14, 2011, 0:41 GMT

    @landl47... a bit over the top re:Wessels... he had no chance to play for SA as they were banned from Int. cricket... a good cricketer without a job... he joined the Packer circus in the late 70's & played for Oz early 80's... stayed in Oz until SA joined Int. cricket in new era and was SA's first captain after 'the break'... no Aussie surprised by this & many wished him well on his return to play for his homeland... how many other Oz players have been imports?... lol...

  • chris54 on October 13, 2011, 23:19 GMT

    Another excellent article. Keep them coming. I won´t get involved in any childish debate about foreign born players, but I am amazed by a claim from a previous poster, Chris Campling, that South Africans " have a side to compare or even surpass the 1970 team". One could concede that Steyn is equal to Procter as a bowler, but Peter Pollock is way ahead of Morkel, Lindsay better than Boucher, Procter, Barlow and Goddard as all- rounders, without mentioning two of the greatest batsmen of all time. @mr_hag, if the ab´s lose on sunday, it may be down to choking,but if they lose the final to Wales, it will be simply a case of losing to a better team, a team that has the potential to dominate for years, just like the SA cricket team of 1970 could have done.

  • landl47 on October 13, 2011, 14:14 GMT

    @RandyOz: you make these completely untrue statements and expect everyone to just take you at your word. Trott's father and Pietersen's mother were born in England. In fact, Trott had a British passport when he came to England and was never counted as an overseas player. Australia, South Africa and every other country would jump at the chance of selecting players born abroad provided the players qualified under ICC regulations. Australia proved it with Kepler Wessels and SA have just proved it with Imran Tahir, both of whom had far more first-class experience and far less connection with Aus and SA than Trott and Pietersen when they came to England. The argument against is so puerile as to be ludicrous; if a player is good enough and qualifies for selection is a country supposed to say, too bad, you weren't born here? Get used to losing graciously- England have had a lot of practice at it and now it's your turn.

  • bumsonseats on October 13, 2011, 12:51 GMT

    allroundcricketfan. im not sure of your nationality but if u think KP is the best player to play for england i have to differ and to what you perceive as a great/best batter. hes the most flamboyant batter iv seen play for england. as england, like SA dont do flamboyant to well .what i would say he the best batter in the last decade and a bit. as to his buying property in SA i cannot argue. but please ask his england born wife jessica taylor with the highlife of london on their doorstep were they both seem happy to live. both make many millions on uk contracts. ever heard of making a buck out of property you get more for your money in SA than the uk. dpk

  • ashes61 on October 13, 2011, 12:20 GMT

    Contd: So Strauss & Prior are as English as anyone. On Pietersen & Trott we have to give way on the moral argument. Even though there are ENG parents involved & the players would have served a residence period by the time they were picked anyway, and even though each continued to develop his game in the county ch'ship for some years, they were already in the SA 1st class system before moving. It may be ICC-legal but the moral criticisms from S Africans are valid, especially in KP's case. (Politics & quota system? Not mercenaries but ambitious opportunists). With Dernbach & Meaker I haven't checked their age on emigration. If as children/young teens, then Eng have a legitimate claim, even if either was already doing well as a boy cricketer in SA, as only a tiny handful of the top boys make it. So it mostly comes down (morally) to where they learnt their cricket. In most cases, an emigration between, say, 14 & 17 would create the "grey area." We get LOTS of immigrants, esp. from SA!

  • serendipidity on October 13, 2011, 12:16 GMT

    @hris Spot on mate. It was blindingly obvious that KP was going to turn into a batsman with a 50 plus average in tests when he was in SA. Those poms who point to the fact that he was an offie who batted at 8 before he went to England know nothing about the game. And it's likewise absurd to think that Middlesex had any impact on Morgan's development. It's clearly irrelevant that he went over there as an uncapped 19-year-old. Keep up the great comments.

  • ashes61 on October 13, 2011, 12:05 GMT

    Continuing: I don't agree that England has ever been criticised for playing Bopara, Panesar etc. They are English born & no-one hints at any impropriety there - it's those born elsewhere which attract attention. As far as those from Wales or Scot'ld are concerned, we're on safe ground.Cricket is hardly played in Scot'ld (compared to Eng) & those Scottish-born players good enough have always had to play for Eng. Ditto Wales, even more so - Glam'n play in the county ch'ship & the Eng & Wales Crkt Bd (sh'd be ECWB!) covers Wales - which, despite its new Nat'l Assembly & the natural pride of its people, is - & has been for centuries - legally and constitionally part of Eng, for want of a better expression. (Sorry all Taffs!) With Morgan we're on sticky ground - not ICC rules-wise, but morally. He has played for IRE in a W/Cup, after all! So, legal but dodgy. Strauss & Prior cannot possibly be considered "imports" - look at when they arrived (back) in Eng with their parents. Contd ...!

  • ashes61 on October 13, 2011, 11:49 GMT

    For the first time, I really did think we ought to take a hard look at our squad after reading Warren Smith's comments, which sum up the views of many overseas cricket fans on the "Saffers in England" debate. Having seen the (usual) responses, I can understand both points of view. It is definitely a fair debating point - see Mike Atherton in "The Times" today, by the way. International sport should mean what it says: the best of ours agains the best of yours. But with modern travel, emigration trends, historical links, and - it has to be said - SA's quota system of recent times, however, there are going to be more and more "grey areas." The Kolpak legislation has certainly not helped things one bit! Parents' passports and residence as a child seem to be the debating points. So any mention, for example, of Amla, is ridiculous - the descendants of 19th century indentured Indians to Natal are 100% S Africans. Continuing in a 2nd post:

  • AllroundCricketFan on October 13, 2011, 11:27 GMT

    @Optic. I wont disagree with that - Dernbach and Meeker left when they were 10 and 11, so did Prior when he was 7 and Strauss when he was 2. BUT the other SA'ns namely Petersen(Eng's best batsman ever), Trott and Keiswetter were all in their 20's when they chose the UK as their chosen place of residence. Going back to my point, every expat of SA has that love for 'home' and I can assure you these 3 call home SA... Even Petersen has invested his millions in properties all over SA. Tells you alot.

  • bumsonseats on October 13, 2011, 11:06 GMT

    randyOZ. i think when u say no imigrants get thru. tells more signs of your and your countries ignorance, then any non selection policy. for years getting into oz was hard for one reason. but for getting this piece on this page i will not go into that. dpk

  • RandyOZ on October 13, 2011, 8:52 GMT

    @hris - spot on, they are benefitting from other's systems. This is why they all filter through the pathetic county system, they have no home grown talent. @Herbet- yes strauss learnt his trade in Melbourne!

  • Herbet on October 13, 2011, 7:57 GMT

    RandyOz, Kevin Pietersen's mum is English, get it right. Kieswetter's mum is Scottish, Scottish players have always played for England at cricket. But yeah, we are the number one test team because half of Pietersen's gene's came from a South African. Nothing to do with Swann, or Anderson, or Broad, or Cook, or Bell, or Bresnan, or Tremlett.... as well as Prior and Strauss who are as English as anybody else despite the location of their birth.

  • Trapper439 on October 13, 2011, 5:44 GMT

    Should be a good series. As an Aussie fan I think that SA will be too good for us. The first Test will be in Capetown, and the Saffers won by an innings last time Australia played them there. As far as the other debate that's going on in the comments is concerned, only a loudmouthed minority of fans care about the origins of various players. England and SA are fully entitled to pick any player who is willing to play for them, and the cricketing world is a better place because they do.

  • hris on October 13, 2011, 5:37 GMT

    Whatever be the reason, the fact is England rely on this influx of people trained elsewhere. I don't care about someone like ben stokes who came very early on. He grew up and was educated in England, so I consider him mostly English. But when you talk of pieterson, kieswetter, trott, Morgon, to some extent Strauss, these guys learned their skills in other countries. And England are benefiting from something in which they didn't have much input. @landl47 -- where would England be without these guys I just mentioned above. As far as the tahir argument, I agree it's the same. Anyway I'm an oz fan not saffer.

  • RandyOZ on October 13, 2011, 4:45 GMT

    @the poms, youre having a laugh if you think trott and pietersen have English parents, they don't. Neither does Kieswetter his mum is scottish, but I guess you'd claim him too. It's bad enough you need Wales as a second country to bolster your ranks. If I were you'd I'd be worrying that these imports are getting through the sysem and why English arent? We have as many emigrate here and none get through. Boy our depth goes down far!

  • wapibangi on October 13, 2011, 4:23 GMT

    @Trickstar. I'm glad to see your comments. I'm a bit of an outsider when it comes to cricket culture, but I don't understand what the big deal is re the ethnicity of the English team. I guess in theory I understand people's complaints, but it seems a little ugly. I've lived around immigrants my whole life. I've never thought of them as not being American. How's this any different?

  • Rooboy on October 13, 2011, 3:44 GMT

    lol landl47 ... you are right, SA and Aus don't compare to eng. Yup, Aus have a couple of foreign born players on their list, but the BIG difference is that they all grew up in Aus and played their formative cricket in Aus. They weren't poached from other countries. So yeah, no comparison to england at all.

  • Optic on October 13, 2011, 2:26 GMT

    @AllroundCricketFan Dernbach & Meeker have been living in England for the last decade and came over here at 11 and 12 years of age, so your saying they choose to work here at those ages and chose cricket as their job at that age, or maybe they feel more English than they do SA and have chosen to play for their home country, since they have spent their childhoods here. Facts are you haven't a clue where they call home and what reasons they each have and it's rather arrogant of you to presume you do.

  • Optic on October 13, 2011, 2:16 GMT

    @Warren Smith Come on surely you can do better, so England have had to buy success in, really? who have they been buying? But yet it wasn't this way in the 80's & 90's or didn't it matter then? Mate if your going to lecture at least don't embarrass your self while doing it, Wales is part of the ECB that's why it's called the England and Wales Cricket Board and have been for years and years and Welsh players have played for England for decades but I suppose that was you clutching at straws. You want to look in your own back yard before you jump off your high horse, at the very least the foreign born players moved here as kids, with their English parents or at the least have English parents.

  • Trickstar on October 13, 2011, 1:56 GMT

    @Warren Smith & hris You've got to laugh when people like you start bringing up that England have foreign born players, HELLO, since practically the start of test cricket England have played foreign born players, in the 90's England had more foreign born players than they have now but obviously that didn't matter to the rest of the fans from other countries because they weren't winning. England has a huge multicultural society, with people from all over the world moving to it and choosing to work and make lives for themselves, it's been that way since for centuries. You may want to go look up what mercenaries means because may be apart from KP and Trott they all moved to England as kids,at least KP and Trott have English parents and have the choice. It's a shame that's all the ammo you've got and yet you both spout it off like your the first to say it and it's so original, I mean, I could sink to your level and mention the journeyman 32 year old Pakistani you've shipped in but I won't.

  • AllroundCricketFan on October 13, 2011, 0:07 GMT

    @Herbert, let me give you my take on your explanation on Amla against Petersen and the other 6 or 7 mercenaries in the England set-up. Amla is South African and proud of it. His ancestors came to SA 150 years. ago....end of. Petersen, Trott, Keisw, Dernbach, Stuart Meaker(or Beaker) are South Africans but decided to work in England. Hence they have qualified for the country they reside in... Note the word reside. Home will always be SA for these merc's. Even Dbn born Meaker said he did not go 'home' for his sisters wedding becos he was called up by England. Pounds and a 'game of cricket' have led these guys to England. All these expats are really SA'n and am 100 percent sure go 'home' every year. It seems sports in Eng has now become something of a rarity. Tis a shame.

  • landl47 on October 13, 2011, 0:00 GMT

    @hris: you are just plain wrong. It's true that, due to circumstances which were a little unusual, England has benefitted from having some parents and two players (Trott and Pietersen) choose to live in England. However, England has a mass of talent which is home-born. Bell and Cook are joint second on the ICC rankings of test batsmen. England's bowlers- Anderson, Broad, Tremlett, Bresnan,Swann, Finn- are English-born, as are Bopara and Samit Patel. Young players include Hales, Taylor, Bairstow, Buttler, Borthwick, Briggs and Woakes. That 's 2 openers, 5 batsmen (including 2 W/Ks), 6 seamers, a left-arm spinner, an off-spinner, a leg-spinner and an all-rounder. All 17 have been selected for England squads in various formats in the last year- and I could also include Panesar, Shahzad, Onions, Wright and Rashid, who have represented England recently, and Root, Kerrigan and Harris who are great young prospects.. How do SA and Aus compare? They don't.

  • BellCurve on October 12, 2011, 17:51 GMT

    @ Gordo85 - Wiese, Pienaar and Morris are good prospects. But to say they can replace the peerless Kallis? Come on! Players like that are 1 in a billion.

  • Ronaldus on October 12, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    Superb article Peter. . .beautifully written and remarkable insight. Keep writing plse!!

  • bumsonseats on October 12, 2011, 16:42 GMT

    i notice a few of the aussies are out and about. with some of their similar taunts re non SA born. i would these days think they will follow in the slip stream of both SA and england who will fight for top spot over the next 2/3 years, as they are a poor 3rd or 4th position side at best. i epect SA will have to much nous and will win 2 - 0. dpk

  • on October 12, 2011, 15:46 GMT

    @Herbert. Your conveniently glossing over the obvious difference. Amla was born in SA - your lot arent. The fact of the matter is that English cricket has belittled itself. After 15 years of embarrasment against Australia theyve now accepted the fact that english cricketers and coaches arent good enough and that they need to look elsewhere for talent. Apart from a handful of decent bowlers (made into something by an Australian nonetheless) the rest of the talent pool come from all over. Wales, Ireland, Asia, Africa. Its truely pathetic. England are not England. They are mercenaries. They have resorted to the only means they could of gaining ascendancy. They have betrayed the spirit of test cricket they supposedly hold high. Now its not country against country anymore. Its who can afford the best against the rest. More and more players will be coming over. Enjoy your ill gotten gains. Your lot are no better than the BCCI.

  • hris on October 12, 2011, 15:41 GMT

    @landl47. off-course they will struggle a bit to find new talent as most of it ends up in England, who have no talent of their own. Without SA, Ireland and virtually every other country serving as a talent pool for the poms they would be no better than Bangladesh. England is like a Frankenstein-- without the patches provided by all these countries they would have nothing to show. Im surprised that the English football team doesn't have many outsiders. Maybe thats why they don't win anything worth winning.

  • on October 12, 2011, 14:52 GMT

    Tea Party likes liberals....that is an american expression...you think fans all over the globe can relate to that??

  • RandyOZ on October 12, 2011, 12:56 GMT

    They can't help that England takes their best talent!

  • soothsayer_dha on October 12, 2011, 12:54 GMT

    rsa hv always been favorites in any tournament since their readmission(and before that).They hv had the quality players to win crucial matches and big tournaments.But i dont know what happens in most of them maybe they try too hard or the pressure gets to them or is it just fate?Tactilly u feel that they wait for things to happen rather then they making the move.This is one area that needs to change.The other is the exodus of talented cricters to england.This is very frustrating as a fan.Johannesburg is proving to be the greatest nursery of english cricket.They hv to hv a more potent third seamer option.All n all we hope that sa rises to the occasion and entertain world cricket as it has been doing and with a bit of luck going their way for a change(remember 1992 semi final,1999 semi final 2003 world cup exit)they will win championships that are ellluding them.

  • on October 12, 2011, 12:48 GMT

    So are they resting Kallis for the T20 games or do they think they have players that are better than he is in that format?

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on October 12, 2011, 12:05 GMT

    Marcio, I thought my description in regards to contenders for Test supremacy of Australia being 'finished for now' is pretty clear and pretty accurate. Of course its not indefinite but at the moment they are 4th and rightly so. Presently they have one top class bowler who has injury problems (Harris) and an unsettled batting order with Ponting & Hussey near retirement. I'm Australian by the way.

  • Haleos on October 12, 2011, 11:44 GMT

    @landl47 - nice analysis.

  • Herbet on October 12, 2011, 11:40 GMT

    Xolile, I'm not saying Amla isn't South African, he's as South African as any of the others. I was just illustrating how people pick on these things when its England, but not when its anyone else. How many people have belittled England for picking immigrants such as Panesar and Bopara and incomers like Pietersen? Plenty.

  • Gordo85 on October 12, 2011, 11:24 GMT

    Yeah South Africa have tones of good young players coming through. I like David Wiese who I think could be a perfect replacement for Kallis or even Chris Morris and Obus Pienaar to name a few. And of course then you have lots of good wicketkeepers to replace Boucher once he does go. Not to mention then you have this endless suply of young spinners coming through also. But I do agree about Peterson and his stats and I feel that Stephen Cook wouldn't be bad either but he isn't that much younger.

  • Praxis on October 12, 2011, 11:24 GMT

    @AidanFX, I don't think anybody will ever doubt South Africa's talent pool. They are providing more than enough talents for the top two test teams, aren't they?

  • cyniket on October 12, 2011, 11:16 GMT

    the author talks about SA developing into a top side, but it is a mystery to me how they have not enjoyed a period of dominance up to now. steyn and morkel have been the best opening pair for quite a while, when you add to that the brilliance of kallis and the quality of players like smith, de villiers and amla, you've got a very fine team on paper. but sa have failed to beat aus, ind and eng on home soil in recent years, they should have been able to win all those series comfortably. now eng are developing a bowling attack to fear and i'm sure it won't be long before aus are back in the frame.

  • BellCurve on October 12, 2011, 10:59 GMT

    @ Herbert -Amla's ancestors immigrated to South Africa in around 1890. That's 120 years and 5 generations ago. At what point would you consider him South African? Based on your outrageous argument hardly anyone in Australia could be considered Australian.

  • AidanFX on October 12, 2011, 10:53 GMT

    landl47 glad your team is doing well but think you under estimate the SA talent pool

  • mr_hag on October 12, 2011, 10:41 GMT

    Re. chokers tag. Like the All Blacks, this tag applies only to limited overs cup competitions. In normal pressure situations in tests etc, SA do as well as anyone. The ABs are about to (partly) get rid of their chokers' tag, maybe the Proteas will be next?

  • Ashofalltrades on October 12, 2011, 10:03 GMT

    SA has all the right ingredients to be a success in all forms of the game. And with Kirsten at the helm, this shoud only help in streering them to the top. And all they have to do is win a major tournament and that will help them get rid of that choker tag.

  • Marktc on October 12, 2011, 9:36 GMT

    The SA side is maybe not as settled as it should be. For a 'keeper, we should stick with Mark Boucher for the tests. For now anyway, as there is no real challenge. A reliable opening partner for Smith is important, but then we have De Villiers, Kallis, Prince, Rudolph etc for the middle order. The talent is there, it is up to the selection panel to get that right. JP is to fickle and although has talent, has not the mindset yet. We have a brilliant opening pair in Steyn and Morkel, Tahir as an attacking spinner and although we have no WOW 3rd seamer, there are many options available. As for Test, take one series loss to Aussies away and SA have lost no other series since 2006. (Sri Lanka). The Aussies will always be a challenge and this series will be hard fought. The biggest thin is SA have not had a warm up series before the Aussies. I think we will see SA becoming a stronger side under Kirsten.

  • Herbet on October 12, 2011, 9:32 GMT

    Nobody mentions that Tahir isn't South African, or Harris? Or that Amla is of immigrant heritage. Ok, I wont then either, but plenty would have if they were wearing a blue cap with 3 lions on it. I think Morkel has improved out of all recognition over the last couple of years, he and Steyn are the best opening pair going at the moment. Parnell should be 3rd seamer but will politics dictate someone else must play? Tahir has been sucessful at 1st Class level but lets wait and see how he goes in tests. I hope Duminy forces his way into the test team this season, in time for Swann to rip him to shreds again next summer! As undoubtedly talented as Duminy appears, has anyone considered that he maybe doesn't have the temprament for it? Thats how it looked to me when we played SA last, he was a wreck by the end of that series. He might be the new Mark Ramprakash.

  • Tank24 on October 12, 2011, 9:18 GMT

    At least the muddied oafs have support from the rest of the world with regards to the inept ref and they have won 2 world cups, something that these chokers will never do.

    As for the "fear" of revolution, seeing as they have yet to win a competition (Barring the first champions trophy) I would say the fear was well founded. Now be a good boy and talk about something you have knowledge of.

  • hhillbumper on October 12, 2011, 9:17 GMT

    I think it will be a very interesting series and will show where these two teams are heading.SA have a lot of talent but somehow need to move past chokers tag.Aus seem to be a team in flux and making some strange choices but guess it will make an interesting two tests.Which is criminal something like this should be over a longer period

  • bestbuddy on October 12, 2011, 8:25 GMT

    @Dinker Rkn, Parnell has failed to develop since his exciting start several years ago. He still needs to improve on a first class bowling average approaching 40, as well as stay fit for a meaningful period of time. He also is not an automatic starter, as Tsotsobe and Mclaren have been performing better both domestically and for SA recently

  • Marcio on October 12, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    LOL, @ Behind-the-bolwers-arm - "with Australia finished for now..." You really are dreaming if you think one bad series means the indefinite end for Australia. Let's hope the SA players don't have that attitude. Somehow I doubt it, considering that AUS won the last test series in SA pretty easily, just two years ago. Oh, and AUS are still #1 in ODIs, by a long way.

  • Trevor_G on October 12, 2011, 6:32 GMT

    @Sapho Gwadiso: Great analysis; I agree with you on almost all of your points. The key is to factor in the young talent and to hand over the reins without too much pressure. Hashim, AB et al., can help bridge the gap.

    Cheers, from a Saffa in Colorado, USA.

  • on October 12, 2011, 6:15 GMT

    Amusing to find that no one mentions Wayne Parnell among the players 'coming through' he may make or break BUT he will definitely play test match wont he?Being from India i have the habit of drooling over other team's bowling resources..

  • on October 12, 2011, 5:52 GMT

    Nonsense Landl. There are tons of players coming through. Just a few of them:

    Dean Elgar Jacques Rudolph Riley Roussouw Ryan McLaren Heino Kuun Rusty Theron Vernon Philander

    That comes with a core of world class players in Smith, Amla, Kallis, AB and Steyn.

    Smith Elgar Amla Kallis AB Duminy Kuun McLaren Steyn Morkel Tahir

    Lets see England beat that side. Last time England were here they scraped through for a very lucky draw.

  • on October 12, 2011, 5:40 GMT

    Agree and disagree with you Landl47. I think De Villiers and Amla are good enough to build the Test batting around them, and so is Steyn and Morkel in bowling. Imran Tahir has got wickets in different countries, different conditions, different teams, and different situations. He is one of the most adaptable players because he just wants to play. If he fails, Harris is still getting wickets in first class cricket.

    The aging Kallis and Prince should buy enough time to get new guys into the team. At least on of Jacques Rudols, Vaughn Van Jaarsveld and the other near man will come of age soon. Tsotsobe probably only has a future in ODIs, whereas Parnell will slot into the Test team.

    I agree Kirsten has a lot of work to do, but I think he has good material to work with. I am nervous for the two reluctant captains in Amla and de Villiers though.

  • on October 12, 2011, 5:19 GMT

    landl47's argument is well reasoned but specious. you can't argue that a side is beyond its peak while its central figure, kallis, is playing better than ever. nor that its latest inclusion, tahir, is inadequate because he has played for a lot of teams. peterson may be a stopgap, but he is not untalented. duminy is a problem, but once he learns the difference between test and one-day cricket - and that will come with time and experience - he will come again. and in what parallel universe is boucher no longer worthy of his place? sa will have problems in the future - as australia has after the retirement of its great players and india will very soon - but fr the moment we have a side to compare or even surpass the 1970 team (that one didn't have a spinner)

  • HatsforBats on October 12, 2011, 5:06 GMT

    The last 2 seasons have been difficult for SA. Where they at one point looked set to challenge for an extended stay at the top, they have lost form and momentum. Whilst they still have talent a plenty in their squad they do not inspire thoughts of domination as they so threatened not so long ago. I still expect them to win the 2 test series against Aus, but the mouth watering prospect of SA vs Eng has lost some of its lustre. They have the batsmen to succeed, but (aside from the obvious) their bowling is not exceptional. Should the poms stay focused and in form they will only increase their margin at the top of the table.

  • Trickstar on October 12, 2011, 4:48 GMT

    @landl47 Couldn't agree more, dodgy middle order, third seamer problems and pinning all their hopes on a 32 year old journeyman Pakistan leg spinner, plenty to worry about. Add to that there win/loss record in Tests has been pretty poor the last few years, for a team with such obvious talents. Outside the series win in WI, they haven't won a series since their famous win in 2008 in Oz, how is that a side that is supposed to be the second best team in the world, we will obviously have some answers when they hook up with Australia soon.

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on October 12, 2011, 4:33 GMT

    Agree with landl47. Typically for them when the opportunity presents itself to rule with Australia finished for now and India growing old they themselves start to show some holes. They seemed destined to rule a couple of years back and now I get the feeling that the next English summer might show up some weak spots in a team that has a handful of very very good players. Also as Peter Roebuck says only 2 Tests against Australia is worrying, only 3 against England in England is criminal.

  • Kaze on October 12, 2011, 4:26 GMT

    SA had far stronger sides than this lot and they failed to shine I don't see it happening now. SA find ways of losing and Kirsten won't stop that happening.

  • landl47 on October 12, 2011, 3:34 GMT

    Peter Roebuck paints rather too rosy a picture of SA's team, especially in tests. The side is already short an opener (hence the attempt to make Alviro Peterson, a 30-year old with an average in the 30s into Smith's partner), a middle-order bat (Duminy is 27 and has a test average of 28; only in golf is shooting your age a good thing), a wicket-keeper and a spinner (Tahir, the ultimate play-for-pay cricketer with 20 teams behind him, has never made a test team yet and he's 32). Tsotsobe might turn out to be OK, but he's 27 and has a test bowling average of 49. The real problem is that Jaques Kallis is 36 this week and how will they replace 12,000 runs and 270 wickets? Prince is also getting on in age at 34. Yes, de Villiers, Amla, Smith, Steyn and Morkel are excellent players, but 5 men don't make a side. Gary Kirsten's got some work to do. The series in England next year will tell him how much.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • landl47 on October 12, 2011, 3:34 GMT

    Peter Roebuck paints rather too rosy a picture of SA's team, especially in tests. The side is already short an opener (hence the attempt to make Alviro Peterson, a 30-year old with an average in the 30s into Smith's partner), a middle-order bat (Duminy is 27 and has a test average of 28; only in golf is shooting your age a good thing), a wicket-keeper and a spinner (Tahir, the ultimate play-for-pay cricketer with 20 teams behind him, has never made a test team yet and he's 32). Tsotsobe might turn out to be OK, but he's 27 and has a test bowling average of 49. The real problem is that Jaques Kallis is 36 this week and how will they replace 12,000 runs and 270 wickets? Prince is also getting on in age at 34. Yes, de Villiers, Amla, Smith, Steyn and Morkel are excellent players, but 5 men don't make a side. Gary Kirsten's got some work to do. The series in England next year will tell him how much.

  • Kaze on October 12, 2011, 4:26 GMT

    SA had far stronger sides than this lot and they failed to shine I don't see it happening now. SA find ways of losing and Kirsten won't stop that happening.

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on October 12, 2011, 4:33 GMT

    Agree with landl47. Typically for them when the opportunity presents itself to rule with Australia finished for now and India growing old they themselves start to show some holes. They seemed destined to rule a couple of years back and now I get the feeling that the next English summer might show up some weak spots in a team that has a handful of very very good players. Also as Peter Roebuck says only 2 Tests against Australia is worrying, only 3 against England in England is criminal.

  • Trickstar on October 12, 2011, 4:48 GMT

    @landl47 Couldn't agree more, dodgy middle order, third seamer problems and pinning all their hopes on a 32 year old journeyman Pakistan leg spinner, plenty to worry about. Add to that there win/loss record in Tests has been pretty poor the last few years, for a team with such obvious talents. Outside the series win in WI, they haven't won a series since their famous win in 2008 in Oz, how is that a side that is supposed to be the second best team in the world, we will obviously have some answers when they hook up with Australia soon.

  • HatsforBats on October 12, 2011, 5:06 GMT

    The last 2 seasons have been difficult for SA. Where they at one point looked set to challenge for an extended stay at the top, they have lost form and momentum. Whilst they still have talent a plenty in their squad they do not inspire thoughts of domination as they so threatened not so long ago. I still expect them to win the 2 test series against Aus, but the mouth watering prospect of SA vs Eng has lost some of its lustre. They have the batsmen to succeed, but (aside from the obvious) their bowling is not exceptional. Should the poms stay focused and in form they will only increase their margin at the top of the table.

  • on October 12, 2011, 5:19 GMT

    landl47's argument is well reasoned but specious. you can't argue that a side is beyond its peak while its central figure, kallis, is playing better than ever. nor that its latest inclusion, tahir, is inadequate because he has played for a lot of teams. peterson may be a stopgap, but he is not untalented. duminy is a problem, but once he learns the difference between test and one-day cricket - and that will come with time and experience - he will come again. and in what parallel universe is boucher no longer worthy of his place? sa will have problems in the future - as australia has after the retirement of its great players and india will very soon - but fr the moment we have a side to compare or even surpass the 1970 team (that one didn't have a spinner)

  • on October 12, 2011, 5:40 GMT

    Agree and disagree with you Landl47. I think De Villiers and Amla are good enough to build the Test batting around them, and so is Steyn and Morkel in bowling. Imran Tahir has got wickets in different countries, different conditions, different teams, and different situations. He is one of the most adaptable players because he just wants to play. If he fails, Harris is still getting wickets in first class cricket.

    The aging Kallis and Prince should buy enough time to get new guys into the team. At least on of Jacques Rudols, Vaughn Van Jaarsveld and the other near man will come of age soon. Tsotsobe probably only has a future in ODIs, whereas Parnell will slot into the Test team.

    I agree Kirsten has a lot of work to do, but I think he has good material to work with. I am nervous for the two reluctant captains in Amla and de Villiers though.

  • on October 12, 2011, 5:52 GMT

    Nonsense Landl. There are tons of players coming through. Just a few of them:

    Dean Elgar Jacques Rudolph Riley Roussouw Ryan McLaren Heino Kuun Rusty Theron Vernon Philander

    That comes with a core of world class players in Smith, Amla, Kallis, AB and Steyn.

    Smith Elgar Amla Kallis AB Duminy Kuun McLaren Steyn Morkel Tahir

    Lets see England beat that side. Last time England were here they scraped through for a very lucky draw.

  • on October 12, 2011, 6:15 GMT

    Amusing to find that no one mentions Wayne Parnell among the players 'coming through' he may make or break BUT he will definitely play test match wont he?Being from India i have the habit of drooling over other team's bowling resources..

  • Trevor_G on October 12, 2011, 6:32 GMT

    @Sapho Gwadiso: Great analysis; I agree with you on almost all of your points. The key is to factor in the young talent and to hand over the reins without too much pressure. Hashim, AB et al., can help bridge the gap.

    Cheers, from a Saffa in Colorado, USA.