South Africa's far-from-happy ship
Rumours continue to do the rounds that all is not well within the South African camp. The latest reports claim that Graeme Smith, who turned 24 yesterday, had a heated row with Joubert Strydom, one of the selectors, after Sunday's bizarre team selections.
Instead of focussing on the second ODI at Bloemfontein, Smith spent much of his time yesterday trying to convince the media and the public that the situation had been overplayed, denying that he was at loggerheads with any of the selectors and rubbishing speculation as " a load of crap".
"The selectors do have the final call, at the end of the discussion process that takes place," he told reporters. "I'm happy with the way things are being dealt with. Haroon Lorgat, the convener, is very professional and we trust him to do the job."
That came less than 24 hours after Smith had complained that neither he nor Ray Jennings, the coach, were involved in the selection process and that he did not understand the selectors' thinking. Lorgat denied that. "Perhaps Graeme wanted to deflect the heat from himself after the team's performance on Sunday," he said. "But he and all the players have to understand that it is they who have to go out and perform, not the selectors."
The consensus seems to be that while the public façade remains just about intact, behind the scenes there is confusion and unreast. Lorgat, never more than a stopgap, will step down soon, and Omar Henry, his predecessor who remains a selector but is hardly part of the process, will follow in April. And even Jennings has only been appointed until May, with no guarantee that he will be reappointed. Without stability behind the scenes, it is hardly surprising that things on the field are wobbling.
At least one of the worst blunders last weekend - the omission of AB de Villiers - has been put right, and Adam Bacher's strange and misguided re-emergence (he batted at No. 4 when he has been opening) ended before it really began. It is hard to see a way back for Bacher.
Smith admitted that the inconsistency was taking its toll. "It is important to find combinations and stick with them," he explained. "We need to believe in guys and give them everything they need to be successful. We have to have a plan and know we are going somewhere.
"A lot of things get thrown around when you lose. Once we start winning we will get the belief back. We don't want to be chopping and changing before we go to the World Cup."