Allow me to digress for a moment from my usual lunatic bashing, to jot down some thoughts on the performance of the South African cricket team at the recent World Cup, hosted by Australia and New Zealand. It’s part of the grieving process after yet another early exit from yet another tournament.
Yes, the boys played as well as they could. But dammit, I wish people would stop saying they did us proud. Because they were – quite frankly – awful. Especially against good opposition, which is when it became glaringly apparent just how bad they were. So allow me this opportunity to go through all the stages of grief in one, rambling post:
“Right, if you’re still traumatised over yesterday’s result, stop reading now, ‘cos this is my post match rant/analysis, as part of my closure on the whole debacle.
Firstly, well done to the Black Caps. They were set a stiff target and they chased it down with ruthless efficiency, that they’ll hopefully use to carry them through to win the trophy. Admittedly, they were helped a bit by the rain, which was probably the difference between them chasing 330+ off 50, rather than 297 off 43. Plus they were helped by a Protea team that – once again – choked. In the field this time, rather than with the bat, but after the onslaught from McCullum, which saw Steyn, Philander and Morkel all going for more than 10 an over within the first 4 overs, they had the “deer in headlights” look, and never recovered – which became all the more apparent by the basic fielding errors made towards the end. Still, probably the game of the tournament so far.
So, well played New Zealand, and all the best for the final – just don’t go and lose to those bloody Ausses now!
Now – on to a bit of analysis. Firstly, in the match itself. Eden Park is a small ground. I posted the day before that the selectors needed to make a choice between the out of form de Kock, or Rossouw, so Philander could come in, as fourth seamer, meaning we had the luxury of Duminy as a 6th bowler. This didn’t happen. Instead, they kept de Kock (who failed again) and for some inexplicable reason, replaced Abbott – the only SA bowler to consistently take wickets within the crucial first 10 overs, with Philander, who hadn’t played for weeks, and playing Duminy, who despite his performance against Sri Lanka is by no means a front-line bowler, as the fifth bowler. At Eden Park – a rugby stadium with a drop-in pitch and 45m straight boundaries. If I had been awake to see the initial team selection for the match, I would said “Ok, we’ve lost,” and gone back to bed.
As for the tournament as a whole – the team were actually a failure. They played 4 of the top sides in the world (I’m ignoring the West Indies) and lost to 3 of them. We beat a woeful Windies, minnows Ireland and UAE and a Sri Lankan team that had a seriously bad day, and were spanked brutally by India, Pakistan and New Zealand. That is never going to be a world cup winning performance. Ever. The problem was that the team was almost too good. Well, in the batting department anyway. Amla, Rossouw, de Villiers, du Plessis, Miller and Duminy were all good with the bat. The only weak spot in the top 6 was de Kock, and sadly de Villiers felt he was too much of a precious little snow flake to captain, take the gloves and bat. In that case, the captaincy must go to Amla. Or, seeing as de Kock had been out injured for the West Indian tour, maybe he should never have gone, with de Villiers keeping, with a Morne van Wyk as back-up. International matches, especially the World Cup are not the place to bat yourself back into form. The problem was, SA entered the tournament with no all-rounder, and with Rossouw’s sudden form, then found themselves with a 7/4 batting/bowling split, with the fifth bowler coming from Duminy, de Villiers, du Plessis or Behardien.
None of those classify as a front line fifth bowler, and so SA were always on a hiding to nothing for at least 10 of he overs they had to bowl. So why no all-rounder? Behardien might be able to bat a bit, but he is by no means an international quality bowler and, quite frankly, should never have been in the squad ahead of Ryan McClaren. Likewise, why the hell was Aaron Phangiso there? He basically had a month-long holiday, as apart from a few turns as sub fielder, didn’t play a single game. So why take him, instead of say a Marchant de Lange, so at least there would be some decent pace back-up for an obviously out of form Dale Steyn – who, quite honestly showed why he has only played a handful more ODIs than Tests – he just doesn’t seem to be an ODI bowler, where raw pace isn’t such an issue and it’s rare to get the ball to reverse swing.
So why were an allrounder who isn’t ODI quality and a passenger spinner selected? Well, I hate to say it, but that’s quotas for you, folks. If you have to have x number “players of colour” in your squad then you select what’s available, not what’s best. I’m not saying there aren’t good “players of colour” – Kagiso Rabada will be the next Dale Steyn, Amla is the best in his position in the world (except maybe for Steve Smith), Duminy comes off more often than he fails, Philander can be unplayable when he puts his mind to it. But Behardien and Phangiso should have been nowhere near that squad. Ditto de Kock.
And as long as SA continues to select teams along those lines, they can forget winning any World Cups. And they still need to learn not to choke at the crucial moments.
And that’s my closure.”