So, South Africa were demolished by seven wickets by the tournament hosts, England, in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final on Wednesday. South African fans and media were throwing around the ‘choke’ analogy, yet again.
But, let’s take the emotion out of our thinking and look at the tournament from a holistic point of view. Let’s break everything down and analise what happened.
South Africa were beaten by India, who seem to be the form team and now sure favourites to lift the trophy, by 26 runs in the opening match. Had it not been for a resistant partnership between Ryan McLaren and the injured Morne Morkel, the margin of defeat would have been far greater.
Next up were Pakistan. The Proteas saw off the sub-continent team by 67 runs, and all and sundry were saying that this was a turning point for the South Africans. But, as I said before, Pakistan were poor in this tournament. Their record in ODI’s priot to the Champions Trophy was not great against top opposition under the stewardship of Australian, Dave Whatmore.
Then came the all-important match against the West Indies. Both teams were sitting on two points, with South Africa having a better net run rate. With the match being affected by rain, and reduced to 31 overs-a-side, South Africa posted a decent 230 for six in their allotted overs. At the end of the 26th over, the West Indies were 190 for five and ahead of the Duckworth/Lewis rate. But McLaren had Kieron Pollard caught by Dale Steyn off the first ball of the 27th over, followed by the umpires taking the teams off the field. Had the umpires done this one ball earlier, the West Indies would have won the match and faced England in the semi-final.
That dismissal of Pollard sent the Proteas through, but, they did not deserve to be there. Barring the victory against a very poor Pakistan team, South Africa themselves were quite poor. The ODI team has no identity in the shorter formats! Why do I say that? Because no batsman knows what his role is exactly. There is no stability and consistancy within the team. Unlike the Test format, the consistant juggling with batting order and player personal in the ODI and T20 teams is a cause for concern.
Outgoing coach, Gary Kirsten, along with national convenor of selectors, Andrew Hudson, have stated on numerous occasions, that the rotating of players and different selection policies have been in place so as to broaden the talent base. But surely this is what the South African A side is for? Exposing fringe players to international cricket?
Injuries are to be expected, and one cannot blame a side’s failure because of injuries. A team is only as good as its depth. But that depth should not be created through rotating your players in the national side. Yes, you can use lesser series’ to give your top players a rest and bring in those fringe players, but when you are playing Pakistan and New Zealand prior to an ICC event like the Champions Trophy, your best players should be selected, in their positions, to gain confidence and momentum before heading off on a trophy hunt.
Trying to fix a broken leg with a plaster will not work. You need to set the leg in plaster and let it heal, then strengthen the leg through rigorous training. CSA need to implement a policy of consistant selection of their top players in the majority of series, and use the South African A side to develope talent. Doing this will strengthen the talent base, and thus allow better succession into the national team.
As passionate supporters can be, emotion is a terrible thing that can mask the worst situations. Take the emotion out of it, and see it for what it is. The ODI and T20 teams need to have consistent selections like the test team has. Doing this will bring South African cricket into a better light in the shorter formats.