Smith ‘hurt’ by Proteas’ pan­icky dis­play

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ZAAHIER ADAMS

SOUTH Africa’s timid per­for­mance in their crush­ing eight-wicket de­feat to In­dia in ICC Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy on Sun­day has re­ally “hurt” for­mer cap­tain Graeme Smith.

Smith was on com­men­tary duty at The Oval while the Proteas were ca­pit­u­lat­ing in front of him. The 36-yearold, who has felt the brunt of sim­i­lar de­feats at ma­jor ICC tour­na­ments dur­ing his lead­er­ship term, felt the pain of the na­tion back home lament­ing yet an­other Proteas fail­ure. “I left the ground Sun­day feel­ing as many South African fans will be feel­ing. Dis­ap­point­ment that the team haven’t man­aged to recre­ate the form and the brand of cricket that have seen them be so suc­cess­ful in white ball cricket over the past 12-18 months. “I still care deeply about the en­vi­ron­ment that I spent so much time build­ing as a player, and it hurt to see such an un­recog­nis­able South Africa per­for­mance. The side have been miss­ing that spark, or that in­ten­sity to their play that char­ac­terises South Africa cricket,” Smith said in his col­umn for www.icc-cricket.com

Un­like the form team of this tour­na­ment, Eng­land, who have adopted an al­most cav­a­lier ad­ven­tur­ous brand of cricket, South Africa climbed into their shells when it mat­tered most. The World’s No 1 ranked ODI team failed to im­pose them­selves on the op­po­si­tion with star open­ing duo Hashim Amla and Quin­ton de Kock set­ting the trend by pre­fer­ring to ab­sorb the pres­sure ex­erted by the In­dian bowlers in­stead of lay­ing a marker down them­selves.

“With the bat, there was a real chance to make an im­pres­sion on the game early, by look­ing to, at least, try and put the In­dia seam­ers un­der pres­sure.

“That didn’t hap­pen, and this cau­tious style of play that seems to lack the in­tent that we’ve seen from the same play­ers pre­vi­ously, is what puz­zles me the most,” Smith said.

“What I would have liked to have seen from the guys at the top of the or­der is, at least, an at­tempt to put Jasprit Bum­rah and Bhu­vnesh­war Ku­mar un­der pres­sure. Any­thing to put them off their game and bring their plans in to ques­tion. Our ap­proach was far more con­ser­va­tive.”

Smith be­lieved this ap­proach set in the “panic” that oc­curred later when South Africa suf­fered two run outs, which in­cluded the cru­cial wicket of ODI cap­tain AB de Vil­liers.

“Whereas I’ve grown so used to the free flow­ing, of­ten pow­er­ful starts to our bat­ting, to­day was slightly timid and that led to a po­si­tion where you could al­most see a panic creep in to our play.

“Panic re­lated to get­ting ‘a score’, and panic about how we were go­ing to get to 300 plus which seems to be par in this tour­na­ment so far,” he ex­plained.

“Mind­set, and your ap­proach to the game, are those one per­cent fac­tors that make the dif­fer­ence at this level. When those fac­tors are not there, you pay the price and it’s the team’s ap­proach that has been the miss­ing in­gre­di­ent.

“If you’re ever so slightly off the boil that will trans­late to the per­for­mances on the field and of­ten it just doesn’t look right. Since the team have started against Eng­land in May, it hasn’t looked right to me as an ob­server.”

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