Where to for the Proteas?

2009-12-08 08:40
Sport24 columnist Arthur Turner (File)
Arthur Turner

Where to for the Proteas in ODI cricket after their poor performances in the last two ICC events and the disappointment of losing to England for the first time on South African soil?

They now find themselves ranked third in the ICC One Day International Rankings after having occupied top spot earlier in the year.

After the 4-0 defeat in England in 2008, Cricket South Africa and the management where at pains to stress that the team was a "work in progress".

This was never referred to again either during or after the victories against Australia, but recently it has once again resurfaced. It is nothing more than a lame excuse for poor performances and CSA and the team management need to take responsibility. The team is definitely on a downward spiral like I wrote in my previous column.

If Sport24 comments are the barometer, it is clear that fans' patience and frustration are turning into disillusionment and even anger. Mickey Arthur and Graeme Smith are certainly bearing the brunt of these emotions.

The nature of modern day sport is that when the team performs badly, the coach carries the blame single-handedly and the players are not held responsible. Yes, Arthur and Smith are responsible for the performances of the team, but one can’t solely lay all the blame at their door as the players also need to be held accountable.

However, the World Twenty20 in the West Indies has to be a date of destiny for both of them and failure to win - or at least perform well - this event must result in change.

Core of old players

The selectors and management also need to move beyond the core of old players that they have shown so much faith in. They need to develop the next generation by building a dynamic team for the future. What excited me about the ODI victory at Newlands was that Mark Boucher was the only surviving member of the old brigade. It was also the Proteas' best performance in the ODI format for some time.

Alviro Petersen has shown what new blood can do for the team and there is also Loots Bosman who has just been forgotten after his fantastic performances in the two Pro20 internationals against England.

The selectors also need to evaluate the current personnel and take a decision if they have the talent and character to be successful in the high powered environment of international cricket. They need to give each player a reasonable chance to prove himself, but not hang onto players that are not performing consistently.

The balance of the team also needs to be looked at, especially with regards to Boucher. They need to replace him as wicketkeeper with AB de Villiers in the ODI team.

This will enable them to play an extra batsman or bowler. Adam Gilchrist for years successfully opened the batting and kept wicket for Australia in limited overs international cricket. Therefore, there is no reason why De Villiers should not do the same for South Africa. The area they need to protect him is Test cricket as he is too important to South Africa’s future batting to turn him into a wicketkeeper in the five-day game.

A year that promised so much for the Proteas has ended in disappointment. If we are to have any chance of winning the next World Cup - now less than two years away - it is important that the management is prepared to be brave and not carry on in the conservative manner they have become so accustomed to.
Arthur is a former cricket administrator and current player agent.

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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