'What has Jennings really achieved?'
A series victory in the West Indies - South Africa lead 1-0 after two Tests - should not be seen as an endorsement of Ray Jennings's coaching credentials, according to Omar Henry, who was formerly convenor of the national selection panel. Henry accompanied the South Africans to India last November for what was Jennings's first assignment with the team, but was replaced by Haroon Lorgat as selection chief on his return.
According to a report in South Africa's Beeld newspaper, Henry played down the significance of possible success in the Caribbean. "It is not really a big feat to beat the Windies, even on their home grounds," he was quoted as saying. "I could select a team of cricketers who are in South Africa at present who would beat the Windies without any problems. Let us put it this way: If you can't beat the Windies, then you really have problems."
Henry remains a selector, but only until the end of April, while Jennings's role as coach will be reassessed at the end of the current tour. The relationship between the two has deteriorated steadily in recent times, with Henry asking, "What has Jennings really achieved since becoming the national coach?
"He could not beat India at home and he lost against England on our own pitches."
He was also critical of the fact that Jennings had failed to unearth any fresh talent, with South Africa heavily dependent on an established core for top-notch performances. Casting aspersions on Jennings's ability to motivate the new faces, he said, "A good coach surely will ensure other stars also start shining."
After a home series against New Zealand later in the year, South Africa will embark on that most arduous of cricketing tasks, a tour of Australia. Even in their mid-`90s prime under Hansie Cronje and Bob Woolmer, it was a challenge that proved beyond them, and the last (mis)adventure under the stewardship of Shaun Pollock and Graham Ford resulted in a 3-0 thumping.
Even if Jennings does hold on to his job, and that's looking increasingly unlikely with names like Rodney Marsh being bandied about, it'll take an immense effort to quieten those, like Henry, who bemoan just how far they have fallen behind Australia.