The cir­cus is back in town

CityPress - - Sport - Stu­art Longbottom @Long­bot­tom_69 is an arm­chair cricket critic. His last­ing child­hood mem­ory of the cir­cus is be­ing bit­ten by a don­key

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.

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