Biff, Polly fear it's too easy

2015-01-21 21:13
Proteas (AFP)
Cape Town – The captains of South Africa’s last three World Cup campaigns have expressed concern over the one-sidedness of the current series between the Proteas and West Indies, fearing an unhealthy effect on the country’s quest to excel at CWC 2015 shortly.

Graeme Smith led SA at the respective 2007 and 2011 tournaments, whilst Pollock was at the helm for the home-staged event in 2003.

Both are currently serving as SuperSport commentators, and raised their reservations during another painful ODI mismatch in East London on Wednesday, which saw the Proteas romp to a nine-wicket victory in the twilight – it was all over for the Buffalo Park faithful by 18:47 – and with more than 25 overs to spare.

The result earned them early series spoils at 3-0, with only two fixtures to play in Port Elizabeth on Sunday and Centurion next Wednesday.

South Africa had won the crazily high-scoring second game by almost as crushing a margin in runs terms (148) just three days earlier at the Wanderers, and it was widely expected that the Caribbean side would produce a grittier effort in the follow-up.

That didn’t materialise in any shape: West Indies were probably only more lacklustre in collective commitment terms, and many of their batsmen self-destructed awfully en route to a rank insufficient total of 122 which had the knock-on effect of making their bowlers uninspired to try to defend it and fielders still clumsy and error-prone.

Afterwards, rookie captain Jason Holder, who looks worryingly fish-out-of-water in the capacity, tried to be upbeat, saying: “I can promise some improvement for Port Elizabeth.”


It probably requires a healthier dollop than that, even if the Proteas carry out their intention – confirmed by victorious skipper AB de Villiers – to take advantage of the pair of dead-rubber matches to break up their successful combo and field a handful of World Cup squad personnel who have been inactive in the series thus far.

Players like Kyle Abbott, Aaron Phangiso and Wayne Parnell will need to be in a suitable state of match readiness at the six-week CWC tournament in case they have to be suddenly called upon, even if the current “first XI” (with Quinton de Kock still to come, when fit) looks notably settled for the most part.

There is little to lose in the next few days, for instance, by giving the willing and competent Phangiso the specialist spinner’s berth, after Imran Tahir bagged an encouraging 8/118 over the course of the first three fixtures and can safely be rested in good mental fettle for the trip to Australasia.

Similarly, Abbott is likeliest first reserve seamer and retaining a healthy degree of match sharpness is essential for him; the Proteas will probably rotate their main pace trio at St George’s Park and SuperSport Park to create space for someone like the KwaZulu-Natalian with his decent “death” skills and the like.

Nevertheless, both Smith and Pollock – cerebral figures to go with their formidable cricketing reputations -- have some well-meaning reservations about the whipping South Africa are giving the increasingly motley West Indian tourists.

Smith said the Proteas “need to be pressured much more” in the lead-up to the World Cup, pointing out that they aren’t being properly stretched at key times either at the crease or in the field right now.

Pollock weighed in by saying that the series was taking on a counter-productively “soft” texture in terms of preparing the country for tough challenges at the World Cup.

It is difficult and undiplomatic for an incumbent captain to downgrade opponents while they are on the ropes, so De Villiers deftly side-stepped the topic when it was raised by anchor Mike Haysman at the post-match presentation.

He said there were “world-class” players in the West Indies’ ranks – without putting a number on it, of course – and understandably didn’t want to under-sell the impressive ruthlessness and plentiful skills of his own troops of late.

“There’s no harm in winning cricket matches,” he protested.

But unless the Caribbean guests get welcome bees in their bonnets for the remaining ODIs, even De Villiers may quietly start to concur with the Smith and Pollock sentiments ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cwc 2015  |  shaun pollock  |  graeme smith  |  cricket

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