Colin Bryden

Tests to define Proteas' year

2009-12-10 08:47
Sport24 columnist Colin Bryden (File)
Colin Bryden

If reader reaction is an accurate gauge, there are more critics than supporters of the South African cricket team.

I agree it has been a disappointing year for the Proteas, who not long ago were ranked number one in both Test and one-day cricket.

Graeme Smith and his men are finding out that climbing the mountain is only part of the battle. Staying on top is just as difficult.

Yes, the home Test series defeat against Australia was a most frustrating setback. I suspect complacency, the age-old silent destroyer of sporting heroes, was at least partly to blame. The players took too much time off after returning from their triumph Down Under and were not as well prepared as opponents who were badly stung by losing in front of their own supporters.

South Africa came back strongly to win the one-day series and at that stage deserved to be number one in one-day cricket.

The World Twenty20 was a successful operation until the Proteas came up against a Shahid Afridi-inspired Pakistan.

It is worth pointing out that any sporting contest involves two teams. In a head-to-head battle between sides that are reasonably matched there has to be a loser as well as a winner. Pakistan were the better team on a pitch which was not ideal for Twenty20 cricket. 

Disappointing, yes, but no disgrace.

There are no valid excuses for the failure in the Champions Trophy. 

What worked so well against Australia failed against Sri Lanka and England, two teams who had done their homework. Sport is dynamic. 

There is no such thing as a perfect formula, or at least one that is long-lasting, because your opponents will be seeking effective counters.

The one-day series against England never caught fire. England played well in two matches, South Africa in one and rain took care of the rest. In researching the previous time SA lost a home series (against Australia in 2001/02) I was struck by how little I remembered about the individual games – and I was being paid to report on them. I guarantee that the recent series will be a blur in the memory in almost no time at all.

What will define this season is the Test series against England, who won the Ashes against Australia and have shown they are a capable team with a good captain in Andrew Strauss and a coach in Andy Flower who seems to be, dare I say it, in the mould of a Mickey Arthur – a capable manager who prepares well and is not afraid to get experts to assist him.

It should be an excellent series. With the doubts over the fitness of Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn, and having seen how well England have played so far on tour, I am much less confident about South Africa’s chances than I was a month ago.

The Proteas will need to be at their best and to show the level of commitment that got them to the top of the mountain.

May the best team win.

Colin Bryden is a former cricket correspondent of the Sunday Times and current editor of the Mutual & Federal South African Cricket Annual

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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