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De Villiers blames over-thinking as plans go awry

Given the intricacy of South Africa's planning for next year's World Cup, it is difficult to believe it has all come down to this: a 4-1 defeat to the opposition they believed they needed to beat to consider themselves ready

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
23-Nov-2014
Given the intricacy of South Africa's planning for next year's World Cup, it is difficult to believe it has all come down to this: a 4-1 defeat to the opposition they believed they needed to beat to consider themselves ready. These matches are the last one-day cricket South Africa will play before the announcement of their World Cup squad on January 7 and the series has left them pondering whether they have actually had too long to think about a prize that has always eluded them
"Obviously, we're hurting. It's not ideal and it's not what we planned to do," AB de Villiers, who did not play in the last ODI in Sydney, leaving Hashim Amla to captain, said. "Maybe we over-thought things; maybe we've been over-analysing things a little bit."
By no fault of their own, South Africa have not had much else to do besides gear up for the World Cup. They have played just three Tests since July and will only play three more in a summer with just one incoming visit, from West Indies.
Although their international stars could have been left to give the domestic Twenty20 competition a higher profile, they decided instead to organise preparatory series in New Zealand and Australia, to fine-tune what they considered an almost finalised squad. They were going to work on tinkering combinations and tweaking skills but all that backfired because they simply gave themselves too many small things to think about.
"Sometimes when you talk about something a bit too much, you put so much emphasis on it that pressure on yourself that you do funny things in those situations," de Villiers said. "We put a lot of emphasis on Powerplays. I put a lot of emphasis on our fielding and those were the areas that let us down quite a bit. Maybe I must stop talking about the little things we mustn't do and start talking about the things we should do."
So what exactly are those? Unsurprisingly, it is the same thing most captains would want of their team: to get the basics right. "Had we done the basics a bit better, we probably could have won more than just one game," de Villiers said. "It's very disappointing knowing that we didn't do the basics well. It's the kind of thing a consistent cricket team needs to do to be successful all the time."
South Africa lacked for a heavyweight contribution with the bat lower down the order, largely thanks to the hole JP Duminy's absence left, and did not post any totals over 300. Australia breached that mark twice. Of greater concern will be South Africa's ill-discipline with the ball. Although they did not bowl as many wides as Australia in the series, with South Africa's amounting to 28 and their hosts 40, they sent down 10 no-balls compared to Australia's two - including one in Sydney which gave Steven Smith a reprieve against Kyle Abbott
"It's unacceptable. I don't know what to say to that. It shouldn't happen and it's just not good enough," de Villiers said. "It was just a poor performance all round - inconsistent. There is nothing more to say really. We know the areas that we need to work on. We know more or less which players to rely on in pressure situations and we've got a better idea of our World cup squad moving forward."
If South Africa take anything out of this trip, it will be the sentiment that there is nothing more to say because talking is exactly how South Africa have spooked themselves ahead of previous World Cups. When they have been forced to confront the ghosts of competitions past and talk about mental frailty, they shifted to stressing they were and any mention of choking made players want to spit. The end result was that little changed but now they have realised that if they keep allowing themselves to get into the same situations, it is likely nothing will.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent