June 21, 2013

Get South Africa a think tank

With the next World Cup less than two years away, it's important to look at what's causing their one-day cricket dysfunction

Incoming South Africa coach Russell Domingo could do a whole lot worse than suggest a major think tank on where the national team's limited-overs game is going. It has been drifting uncertainly for some time, almost at the mercy of the tides. Will it eventually end up on Treasure Island or simply stuck in quicksand at some murky estuary?

The situation is little changed following South Africa's depressingly comprehensive semi-final exit from the Champions Trophy at the hands of England on a muggy Jimmy Anderson heaven Wednesday at The Oval.

Should we be shocked, surprised, angered even?

Take your pick, but in the final analysis I suggest South Africa did no more, no less, than deliver a par performance on current reputation, sneaking into the last four and then going no further - entirely in line with their world ODI ranking of a humdrum fourth.

Why, a generous argument might even be that AB de Villiers' up-and-down outfit did pretty well to get to where they did, given the not exactly trivial absence of such broad-shouldered figures as Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and, for the inconvenient bulk of the tournament, senior strike-bowling factors Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

Yet the burning question remains: how come our one-day sides (for what it is worth, South Africa are ranked sixth in the T20 format) seem so glaringly less able to take the big step up to global supremacy in the manner in which the Test team so stirringly has?

Perhaps, then, the answer is best sought by bringing together a collection of the brightest and most high-powered cricketing minds in the country to not only take stock of the present inertia but also strategise on a way ahead, taking into account such things as existing and potential new personnel, exactly which stalwart players are genuinely hungry to extend their one-day careers (an important, hot-potato topic, with another World Cup well less than two years away) and which series or tournaments to prioritise in a sardine-can calendar landscape that doesn't mean you can go hell-for-leather all the time.

Coaches (ideally including the now-departed Gary Kirsten, who never had enough time in his curtailed tenure to truly get to grips with the rather painstakingly evolving one-day side), senior players, ex-players, selectors, commentators, some administrators and stakeholders... widespread counsel might well be very beneficial.

In certain respects a changing of the coaching guard brings automatic new hope, although as Domingo is a disciple of Kirsten's and has already said he does not plan to shake the bag to too radical an extent - something that probably comes as a relief in Test terms - there are no guarantees of a quick Midas touch as far as the "instant" game is concerned.

The big problem at the Champions Trophy was that too many clearly proven South Africa players performed moderately rather than sublimely. Absenteeism of normally core customers simply cannot be pooh-poohed

Let's get one thing out of the way: contrary to Kirsten's reportedly generous, self-incriminating and overly humble post-match view that they did, South Africa didn't choke, I would firmly counter, at The Oval.

By definition choking generally means in sport that you frittered away a promising position - and from a swiftly back-foot 4 for 2 and then quite disastrous 80 for 8 after being ordered to the crease in initially challenging but hardly unplayable conditions, South Africa, if anything, only clawed their way back into the contest to some extent after a more serious humiliation had stared them uncomfortably in the face.

If you are going to join the popular, inevitable and eternally fashionable "they choked" lobby, then perhaps you should try slapping the accusation first on the foreheads of such characters as David Miller and the oft-maligned Rory Kleinveldt, who did exceptionally well to post 95 runs for the ninth wicket in 16 overs to greatly delay the crashing sound of the guillotine.

Of course, there can be no denying that the supposed cream of the Proteas batsmen committed indigestible mass suicide on the day, with de Villiers getting out to a particularly wretched choice of stroke given the adverse situation so fast swelling around him. But we also know that he is an undisputed class act, across all formats - there are plenty like him in the current team, which just makes a day like Wednesday so very hard to fathom.

Sweeping changes? That will be the vociferous call by many, you can be sure, but as much as such an unforgiving approach is understandable in the immediate aftermath of another ICC tournament bomb-out by South Africa, you also require cool heads to have their still-important say.

The big problem at the Champions Trophy, really, was that too many clearly proven South Africa players performed moderately rather than sublimely, while absenteeism of normally core customers simply cannot be pooh-poohed as a factor in the elimination.

One source of hope is that no single nation presently dominates the ODI landscape to a clearly identifiable degree, and that sometimes perseverance and patience suddenly pay off in this particular arena with the agreeable snap of two fingers.

In a sea of relative ordinariness, South Africa actually aren't too far from getting it all right.

Some random immediate personal thoughts are that by not playing in the latest tournament, the selection credentials of batsmen like Farhaan Behardien, Alviro Petersen and Quinton de Kock may only have been enhanced, while the name "Vernon Philander" is sure to at least go back under the ODI microscope from a bowling point of view.

South Africa next travel to Sri Lanka, not always their happiest of hunting grounds, for five tricky ODIs and three T20s in late July. Whether it's a major pow-wow or simply another ordinary selection meeting, expect the boardroom doors to be closed for some time ahead of the trip.

Robert Houwing is chief writer for Sport24.co.za in South Africa

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harjinder on June 24, 2013, 6:09 GMT

    Hi SA fans .....we should make some changes for Sri Lanka tour.......call youngsters ,so that seniors feel little more responsibilities ,so call perfect WK ,SPINNER..........like team member D.KOCK. 2 LEVI. 3AMLA. 4. AB 5. ELGAAR 5 MILLER. 6. FARHAAN ( Hitter/finisher) 7.MORRIS. 8 KYLE ABBOTT 9. LENGE 10.SOBE. 11' PHANGISO/spinner /BIRCH. ......or ROSOW,JENNING,ZYL,PHILLANDER..........minimum this team should play next all t-20 international matches. ...good luck

  • Jurie on June 23, 2013, 17:12 GMT

    A think tank implies that people with brains are asked to provide ideas - clearly thus us not the case in SA as: - South Africa plays far less cricket than any of the other major teams, across all formats http://www.espncricinfo.com/rankings/content/current/page/211271.html - South Africa has reckless and incorrect decision making across all aspects of the team, especially batting - see how many recent run outs, and AB opening with Duminy multiple times, batting himself down the order vs England, batting Robin Peterson up the order and opening with Ingram instead of Alviro - it is completely unjustifiable that these decisions have been allowed to be made

    Basically, AB is a great sportsman but utterly wrong as a leader, free him up and make someone like Alviro captain, but please not Duminy who can play neither off spin nor pace and who is the ultimate choker himself

  • Dummy4 on June 23, 2013, 1:41 GMT

    I really dont think this latest failure has anything to do with the choking at major competitions that has plagued SA cricket in the past. This is a new team, and if you look at past ODI bilateral series , they have used it to rest Test players and blood some young/new players. Ingram, Behardien , McLaren, Miller have what it takes to succeed. They were far from their best in the semi-final but this SA team was one one weakest teams heading into the tournament.

    I will reserve my judgement on team come 2015 WC. The guys should have had enough experience and cross the final hurdle

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2013, 16:06 GMT

    A underlying problem is still the quota selection. As an outsider i understand this is touchy subject. But i'm not sure if in a full-strength ODI team Tsotsobe really deserves to be a squad regular over some better white/coloured players like Chris Morris. Phangiso is ok, but is he really a better all-round left-arm spinner than Roloef Van Der Merwe?. I think not

    Wayne Parnell has been crap, yet he is always in around the squad. S Africa have the talent the translate their test dominance to the limited overs game quite easily. But their best XI/Squad because of quotas tends to deny this.

  • Dru on June 22, 2013, 14:45 GMT

    This was a "win toss win game" wicket which when produced in other parts of the world draw a volley of criticism from all and sundry. However such a wicket in Eng where Eng win - the finger points at SA chokers. There could be no worse scenario to play England than morning swing, Eng bowl and knocks off the top order, sun comes out, batting conditions ease out, Eng win. As for SA yes I still think there are issues despite the unfair conditions. Both Amla and AB played uncharacteristic shots as if they wanted to 'choke'! Really not sure what the issue is with SA but its certainly not talent.

  • David on June 22, 2013, 6:24 GMT

    @ GermanPlayer. In 2003 Boucher was given the wrong information. If SA were ahead on D/L, as he believed, risking his wicket would have been the WORST thing he could have done. That is EXACTLY what Pollard did, and WI lost.

    Boucher was one of the best finishers SA ever had. He did not lose his cool. SA would not have lost to NZ in 2011 if Boucher was batting. But, he was left behind.

    Claiming that Kallis has no record in crucial games displays a disturbing lack of knowledge on your part. In the 1st Champions Trophy, Kallis won 2 Player of the match awards & Player of the series. He is STILL the only player to score a century & take a five for in the tournament. Notably, SA WON that tournament….or rather Kallis won it for SA.

    You have shown little knowledge or understanding of SA's ODI team history. (It is the ODI team with the highest win/loss ratio. When you know as little as you evidently do, perhaps you should avoid making transparently ill informed judgements.

  • David on June 22, 2013, 6:02 GMT

    @ Xolile. Levi was found out as soon as he played IPL. He was eaten alive. What has changed? Faf prospered in the IPL, as an opener, but Levi tanked.

    About Behardien I agree. Botha was a great captain, & was wasted by SA. South Australia are very happy with him!

    Alviro was a good replacement for the Champion's Trophy. He absolutely should have opened in the England game, and could have not done any worse than Ingram. Youth is a great concept - until they fall apart. Alviro has faced England, & Anderson, in England. He would not have been clueless, like Ingram was, thrown into the lion's den.

  • David on June 22, 2013, 5:40 GMT

    Tony Knott. I agree with your analysis of AB's captaincy. He simply has not shown the acumen to continue in the position, Not all great players make great skippers, & not all great skippers are great players.

    Why Alviro, who has faced Anderson, with Amla, was ignored & the inexperienced Ingram sent in to open in unfamiliar conditions is beyond a mystery, its a travesty.

    Kallis is by far the most experienced, and best, player SA has ever had. If he says he does not feel that he is able to effectively compete - his reason for withdrawing - he should be believed. The man has given his all to SA. He is not dictating, he is being honest, & diligent. Face it, honesty & diligence are his trademark!

    The board is the last group who should make player decisions. Until they can prove that they are competent, unlikre their predecessors, the players deserve better.The Proteas success has been in spite of, not because of CSA

  • varsha on June 22, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    I agree with BZZD - the whole tournament is a farce when the toss essentially dictates who will win a game. Why is no one saying SL choked as well, since they capitulated under the same circumstances. No one will say it because all the South-Asians here who follow cricket (and let's face it, they are the dominant group), tend to prefer to reserve the chokers tag for SA. Go back to the match reports of the semi-final and count and ctrl+F how many times the word "choke" is found in the first semi vs the second semi. SA and SL both lost the match because they lost the toss. That's it. Put Steyn, Philander and Morkel in to bowl first under those conditions, and Eng would have struggled to make 100. I am not a fan of matches that are won on tosses entirely. At least in a Test you get a chance to make up an unfair toss advantage, in an ODI you never do.

  • Wayne on June 22, 2013, 1:38 GMT

    I think CSA's poor treatment of Johan Botha is coming home to roost. Never understood how they could let a player of his quality slip through the system. Rightly enough he said " enough is enough" and backed his bags and headed for Australia after being overlooked once too often. Not only is he SA's best spinner, but he would be the first choice to captain the ODI side. He's tactically smart and should've been given the job in place of AB. AB is a great player, but I think his leadership qualities have been shown up. Come on CSA, get your act together. How many more players do we have to loose to other countries!!

  • No featured comments at the moment.