The circus is back in town
In what has been a month of selection drama at home and some pleasantly surprising series results abroad, one cannot help but think about the late American comedian and critic George Carlin, who said: “Just ’cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”
It’s unclear what Carlin was referring to, but we can apply this sentiment to the cricketing context.
One perpetual thing riding on the back of Cricket SA (CSA) selectors is transformation, and it seems the deeply conflicted cricketing body has made good on notions of it being, well, a circus.
Why is it that such brouhaha around transformation was created earlier this month when CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat was quoted as saying that the association was becoming “a bit more aggressive in the transformation space”, only for the first post-World Cup touring squad to bear hardly any semblance of transformation?
If recent history is anything to go by, players such as Aaron Phangiso and Kagiso Rabada – whose names feature on the squad lists for all three formats – will do nothing but watch from the sidelines.
Then, just as we thought a stable pecking order had been established, we witnessed the success of two teams that simply can’t be shaken off: Bangladesh and England. The former having just sent off India and the latter beating World Cup finalists New Zealand. For Bangladesh, after India’s departure, the circus will remain in town when the Proteas kick off their tour there next Sunday with the first of two T20 matches. The South Africans will do well to remember Carlin’s unassuming assertion.
The full-strength India squad that went to Bangladesh probably thought they’d be the ringmasters, but were left with a reminder that bravado has no place in the modern game, particularly in its shorter formats.
India saw off South Africa while barely breaking a sweat the last time the two sides met in February.
They’re a quality outfit packed with stars and studs alike.
Perhaps they traversed the subcontinent without taking full cognisance of Bangladesh’s ability or hunger, or maybe they were still hazy from their Indian Premier League hangovers.
But it wasn’t so much that India performed poorly; they were simply outmatched by a determined Bangladesh.
The Proteas always seem to pursue the monkey rather than seeking to shake it off. With the “experimental” squad they’re taking across, they might be aiming to replicate the underdogs’ bloodthirst, but the more likely explanation is that the selectors are resting on their laurels and saving the big names for the matches that “count”.
But perhaps what counts now, in light of the recent CSA circus, is not a convincing series win against the triumphant Tigers, but the freedom to rebuild the squad in the mould we’d like to see in years to come – hopefully with less of the monkey business we’ve come to associate with the national team and its selectors.