Graeme Smith, the South African captain, blamed his inexperienced bowlers for the defeat in the ODI series against England, but was confident his team would regroup in time for the tour to Australia.
Smith, who is back in South Africa, was ruled out of the final three ODIs against England with a tennis elbow. Jacques Kallis stepped in but South Africa failed to turn around their fortunes, and are staring at the possibility of a 5-0 whitewash. Smith asked fans not to forget the 2-1 win in the Tests - South Africa's first in England since readmission - but admitted the absence of Shaun Pollock had weakened the ODI side. "We obviously always want to perform well," he told News24.com. "Some people have pretty short-term memories and of course we'd like them to remember exactly what we did achieve in the Test series. Obviously what has happened subsequently is disappointing.
"But in terms of the team itself, if anything it's a realisation that we've lost some major elements of our ODI set-up," he said. "Replacing a guy like Shaun who provided so much control in our one-day [game] was never going to happen quickly. His all-round abilities meant so much: his tight bowling, lengthening our batting, finishing off games. Some of the young guys in the one-day set-up are struggling with form; it's created a bit of pressure on the team."
He pointed out the successes of his Test side in the past year - series victories at home against New Zealand and West Indies and away against Pakistan and Bangladesh, and a draw in India - and said domestic performers could get a look in for the ODIs in Australia. "In terms of going into Australia, our Test side is strong in itself and had a huge amount of success this year," he said. "We don't really get tested in one-day cricket now until we reach Australia so it allows us a bit of time; guys at domestic level really have a chance to stake claims."
Smith said some of the players were a bit jaded after a long season, and that they relaxed after the Test triumph. "It probably all plays a part," he said. "We know we can't complain about IPL and things like that; it's difficult to turn down those opportunities. Time away, time on airplanes and in hotels ... it probably has played a part.
"I just feel we've lost some sting after the Test series. In that break before the ODIs it was like a hot-air balloon that popped. It's also opened our eyes to things we must work on and set right."
South Africa hadn't appointed a vice-captain for the ODIs in England, and Smith felt they needed to identify someone. "Jacques filled in at a difficult time for him," Smith said of his team-mate taking up the leadership at a time when his batting was in a slump. "It's a high-pressure job, especially in a place like England with the media scrutiny and so on, so we couldn't expose a [youngster]. It does bother me at the moment over who's going to be the next guy. We've got to identify [someone] we can grow and develop. Not having a vice-captain in the one-day side is not a good thing; we need to work on the issue. I can't give you an answer now, but the topic is on my mind a lot."
Smith was hoping to recover in time to get a few domestic games ahead of the Australia tour in December, and believed the ICC must step in to ease out the cramped international calendar. "I've spent seven days at home since March. It takes its toll mentally and emotionally, and in terms of injuries," he was quoted in the Independent. "There have been so many changes in the game in the last 18 months. The ICC needs to plan carefully. It's a huge responsibility."