I don’t mean to be a grinch, but…
Usually by this time of the year, I am delirious with festive cheer and the “spirit of giving” we’ve all been conditioned to embrace.
But this year it’s different. I’m not sure if it’s because of all the recent chatter among my paler-faced peers regarding their wish to “get the hell out of here” in light of our president’s recent not-so-slick moves, or if it’s because of the near certainty of Aston Villa’s relegation from the English Premier League, but things are definitely not “merry”.
On top of this, the Proteas test team is about to embark on a home series against England with some key questions from their unsuccessful tour of India left unresolved. The most glaring uncertainty is that of finding a reliable, full-time wicketkeeper who can bat.
Last week, we learnt that AB de Villiers will reprise, with reluctance I’m sure, the role of wicketkeeper for at least two of the four tests against England. This after Dane Vilas, who kept in the test series in India, failed to make much of an impact with the bat.
De Villiers has in the past expressed that being behind the stumps is not ideal for him, so perhaps keeping wicket will be just too much added pressure for him to shine when it comes to what he does best – bat.
If the Proteas haven’t found stability in their batting by Boxing Day, when the first test begins, there’s no doubt the England pace pairing of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with an impressive 741 test wickets between them, will sniff out our deficiencies and tear us apart.
Then there’s the question of Hashim Amla’s captaincy. If the series against India is anything to go by, it seems he hasn’t yet mastered the pressures that go with leading a premier test team.
His bowling choices on the subcontinent were iffy at best, especially when he was pushed to be inventive in the face of tough conditions and injuries to two of his key bowlers.
This, in all likelihood, negatively affected his ability to do what he does best – concentrate for long periods when he’s out in the middle and bat to win or save test matches. Averaging just 16.85 in the four tests against India is abysmal by any top-order batsman’s standards, let alone Amla’s.
In a recent blog post on SuperSport.com, Faf du Plessis, another underachiever in the India test series, reckoned the Proteas test team had “a long way to go”.
He added that “this team has to find its feet and find them quickly. It needs to establish itself and start putting in some good performances.” Never one to state the obvious, that Faf.