South Africa Fails Again: What Now for Proteas?

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South Africa Fails Again: What Now for Proteas?
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South Africa suffered inept defeat to Pakistan in the world T20 and have skulked out of another competition they were highly fancied to win without making any kind of impact.

In truth the exalted view on South Africa’s potential to win the tournament seemed to come from pundits outside of South Africa with a limited knowledge of the team. Even Graeme Smith’s pre tournament comments were unusually down beat.

In truth, South Africa had not won a meaningful One Day International Cricket (ODI) match of any type in 2010, the dead rubber in India not really constituting a meaningful encounter, and have been highly erratic at ODI cricket since the English summer of 2008.

During the T20 World Cup Tournament, South Africa were beaten comfortably by India, England and Pakistan and achieved wins over Afghanistan and New Zealand. There were issues with all aspects of the teams performance, bowling and fielding but the batting undermined South Africa’s inability to progress more than anything.

In five fixtures South Africa used four different opening partnerships and in every single match, even against Afghanistan, the middle order struggled in the middle overs to cope with slower bowlers on low, slow pitches.

Frequently, South Africa would reach the end of the sixth over power play, with 40 to 50 runs on the board, then would often limp to the 10 Over mark with no more than 75 on the Scoreboard. Wickets fell too frequently and too many players looked out of form.

Public opinion is starting to swing wildly and it’s the big four of Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs, and Mark Boucher who are taking the bulk of the public criticism.

It’s the same old criticisms surfacing in respect of Jacques Kallis, scoring runs but not quickly enough for the team. In fairness, Jacques Kallis must have done no less than was asked or expected of him, usually scoring 20 or 30 runs at over a run a ball. When you consider that players known for fast scoring, such as Brendan McCullum, struggled to score at a run a ball on the Caribbean pitches, it seems a harsh criticism to make.

Indeed it was the players around Jacques Kallis that probably put more pressure and focus on the great man himself. Graeme Smith looked like a man out of form and having missed eight weeks cricket in the build up to the World Cup it’s little surprise that his return could be regarded as average, 109 runs from 91 balls faced.

Other than Smith, batting around Kallis, Loots Bosman managed 8 runs in 2 innings from 15 deliveries faced, as opener Herschelle Gibbs managed 3 runs from 9 balls. Given that kind of support in the upper order, Jacques Kallis managed a creditable 171 from 150 balls. While there may be time for Bosman to make an impact in the future, it would seem unlikely that the selectors will turn to the 36-year-old Herschelle Gibbs in the future.

Mark Boucher is another under threat. In this tournament he missed a catch that flew between him and first slip but his general Wicket Keeping was tidy. He failed to impress with the bat managing 29 runs of 34 balls, often at the crunch end of the innings when quick runs were needed.

Competition for his place in the team will come from Thami Tsolekile, who may be approaching 30 but is in rich form with the bat and the promising Heino Kuhn.

Graeme Smiths’ form apart, it is his captaincy that is under most scrutiny. It’s a general apathy that too often South Africa have failed to win tournaments in which they were expected to prosper. Graeme Smith wouldn’t be regarded as an intelligent captain but what he does is lead by inspiration.

However, T20 is a fast-moving game and it does appear that Smith can be too slow to react to situations, especially when the team are batting.

Johan Botha would be the most obvious choice to take over the One day captaincy. He is one of the players to have maintained a good reputation in the recent, difficult times. Also, in 2009 he captained the One Day side to away and home series wins against Australia in Graeme Smith's absence with finger injuries.

Other leading nations successfully employ separate Test and ODI captains including England and Australia. The question would be, could another individual captain the side with a figure as influential as Graeme Smith still in the team. Smith has strong cliques with Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis, so the introduction of a new captain whilst all three of these figures remain in the team would seem unlikely.

Where is the new blood coming from? Rilee Rossouw is a name on many people's lips. The 21-year-old, left hander smashed 319 off 291 balls on the opening day of the Supersport series match against Titans at Centurion in 2010. He has also had a fairly prosperous tour with the "A" Team to Bangladesh.

Colin Ingram and David Miller are other batsmen that may get considered sooner rather than later. Dean Elgar and Stian Van Zyl are two more, both with the added bonus that they can bowl, Slow Left Arm and Medium pace respectively. Rossouw has stepped up from the under-19 ranks while Miller is only one year older. Van Zyl represented the emerging squad last winter.

On the bowing front, Juan “Rusty” Theron is an obvious candidate while Wayne Parnell will be a welcome addition when he returns from injury. One would assume that Johan Botha will be the preferred spinner in the team.

None of the pace bowlers on the "A" tour to Bangladesh have really leapt off the page, but then again Bangladesh can be a bit of a graveyard for pace bowlers. Vernon Philander may find himself back in contention soon as may Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Jonathan Vandiar is another youngster who can bat and bowl off breaks, but on the "A" Tour to Bangladesh, Paul Harris has prospered more than any other spinner.

South Africa have a new Selection Panel headed by Andrew Hudson, and this panel has not had a chance to pick it’s own squad as yet. In interview Andrew Hudson has intimated there may be changes. Hudson was recently quoted as saying of the T20 Tournament and the South African team selection for their tour of the West Indies.

"I will have a strong interest there, to see who performs but my first task will probably be the series with Pakistan in the UAE, if that gets finalised, otherwise it will be for the home series against India."

This suggests he may be prepared to seek new blood from outside of the current squad.

Following the abject disappointment of the T20 World Cup, we look forward with interest to see what shape his first squad does take.

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