The burden of choking

2013-06-24 15:07
Andrew Hudson (Gallo Images)
Since the Cricket World Cup in India 2011 there has been so much written by journalists, coaches and players about the "chokers" tag that hangs so heavily on every Protea player and fan. With all that has been said and all the changes that have been made over the past few years the one constant has been the selectors.
The selectors who seem to invest valuable time in the wrong players. That place a high price on certain qualities and ignore other huge assets. Let’s have a look at the last domestic 50 over competition and start asking the right questions.

From a batting point of view below were the top performers.


Player                                   Mat        Inns       NO         Runs      HS           Ave        BF           SR           100         50           0              4s            6s
RE Levi                  12           12           1              620         166         56.36     576         107.63   1              4              0              79           12
(Cape Cobras)
SC Cook                                11           9              1              458         125         57.25     505         90.69     2              2              0              47           4
H Davids                               11           11           0              450         166         40.90     496         90.72     1              3              2              33           13
HG Kuhn                              10           10           0              394         107         39.40     437         90.16     1              3              0              44           4
VB van Jaarsveld              9              8              2              373         116         62.16     496         75.20     1              3              0              41           3

Levi over the past couple of years has received the occasional T20 call up, but has since been discarded as unreliable? Should we not invest 2 years in R Levi in all forms of limited overs cricket instead of occasionally expecting him to bang the ball to all parts. At domestic level he is more than just a top order slogger, he has showed in the longer version of the short game that if he takes time to get going he is an unstoppably force and stands head and shoulders above all others.
At the age of 25, an investment of 2 years would mean he would be 27 when you hope he matures, that would leave about 6 years of a productive career.

Or if you're looking for stability, why haven't we given Stephen Cook a chance? He has brought stability to the Lions team that allows other players to strike and dominate. The Lions are the best domestic team in T20 and 50 over cricket. They have the batting and bowling to stay in the game and it is a player like Cook that gives those around him the freedom to express themselves.

We wonder why the Proteas failed, but look at Colin Ingrams form at domestic level the past year:

Player                                   Mat        Inns       NO         Runs      HS           Ave        BF           SR           100         50           0              4s            6s
CA Ingram                           7              6              0              124         70           20.66     192         64.58     0              1              0              12           4

Clearly the man is out of form and low on confidence, yet the selectors and management selected him and promoted him to open the batting? WHAT WERE THEY THINKING????

From a bowling point of view the selectors have done a little better, but I wonder why Birch hasn't got a chance? And why Rory Kleinveldt keeps getting them? Sure he occasionally slogs the ball to all parts, but are we really choosing our bowlers on their batting ability? Surely a bowlers job is to take wickets, it doesn't help if he can hit a couple of sixers when he's going to give the straight back when we bowl??? And Robin Peterson, is he a batsmen, bowler or all-rounder? From my point of view he is a bowling all-rounder, but lately he rarely bowls his full quota and comes on to bowl after a part timer? I can't complain about his assistance with the bat, but I have to believe if he is in the game for his batting we'd do a lot better having a talented dedicated batsmen to play at number 3 or hit the ball out the ground at number 6. It has always been my belief when it comes to all-rounder’s that they should be able to keep another player out of the team on the strength of either their batting or bowling. I think of Jacques Kallis, who would hold down a position in any top 4 in the world even if he never bowled another ball. Shaun Pollock would've held his place as a bowler even if he never hit a ball. Lance Klusner came into the team as a fast bowler and developed into a devastating hitter. Brian McMillan started out as a bowler and became a useful number 6. Can we really say that Robin Peterson should keep a bowler or batsmen out of the team. If he couldn't bat or bowl, would he still hold his place and at the age of 33 (almost 34) should we really be investing any more time in his development as a bowler?


Player                                   Mat        Inns       Overs    Mdns    Runs      Wkts      BBI         Ave        Econ      SR           4              5
ACR Birch                             10           10           83.4        10           386         23           4/28       16.78     4.61        21.8        1              0
RE van der Merwe           11           11           93.3        0              439         22           5/26       19.95     4.69        25.5        2              2
GC Viljoen                           8              8              57.5        8              268         20           6/19       13.40     4.63        17.3        2              1
R McLaren                           6              6              50.3        6              226         15           5/38       15.06     4.47        20.2        0              1
J Louw                                  11           10           90.0        6              407         14           3/24       29.07     4.52        38.5        0              0
(Cape Cobras)

We keep talking about the players and the coach, but what about the team selections? The 2011 team didn't stand a chance, as the team management dictated that plan A (top 5 score heavily) was the only plan and when it all went wrong through the team and captain under the bus.

We all love Gary Kirsten, but I don't believe he was ready for another job with an international team. I don't think he was as dedicated to South Africa as he was to India. The wild experimentation of the last 2 years has come to nothing, mainly because Gary has decided to retire for now. That wild experimentation would sit well in a 5 year plan not a 2 year tenure and Cricket South Africa were happy to play along.

The selectors and management have been happy to allow things to flow this way and that. We need stability in our ODI team. Players need to know where they stand and what their role is. We can't keep choosing bits and pieces players. It didn't work for England in the 90s and it's not working here now.

It's time to select a core of young players and groom them for the next 2 years under the guidance of a few strong leaders. And the coach and captain must stop talking up our hopes of titles were clearly not ready to win. We didn't stand a chance of winning the 2013 ICC tournament, not on the grounds of our play over the last summer and I know you're not supposed to say you can't win a tournament. Shouldn't we be realistic and set achievable goals? We have the talent and we have the structure, but we need to have a little more professionalism and pragmatism. You need to be able to see when you're going to slowly trudge your way up a hill instead of flying quickly to the top.

There is no point to blind optimism when all you achieve is despair at the end.

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