Proteas need players who can take the pressure – Herschelle
HERSCHELLE Gibbs is brutally honest in his analysis of the Proteas’ performance in the International Cricket Council Champions Trophy. “They (Proteas) have a fear of failure. It’s so obvious,” says the former Proteas opening batsman.
While a number of former players have distanced themselves from the negativity surrounding the performance of the team, Gibbs is open to sharing his thoughts on South Africa’s early exit from the tournament in England.
“They (Proteas) aren’t the best under pressure. It’s as simple as that. We need players who enjoy playing under pressure and don’t buckle – and unfortunately that is something we don’t have.”
The Proteas’ inability to handle pressure was evident last Sunday when the team succumbed to an embarrassing eight-wicket defeat against India, which resulted in South Africa being eliminated from the tournament.
The Proteas crumbled from 116/1 to 191 all out in good batting conditions at The Oval in London, before Shikhar Dhawan and India captain Virat Kohli shared a fluent partnership of 128 to lead India to victory with 12 overs to spare.
Gibbs is not surprised by the Proteas’ inability to deal with a high-pressure game. “The truth lies in the statistics at ICC competitions. If that doesn’t improve we will never win one. If pressure doesn’t bring out the best in you, nothing will.”
South Africa went into the tournament as the No 1-ranked one-day international team in the world, and were listed as one of the bookies’ favourites to win the tournament.
But Gibbs is not convinced. “People are too optimistic about us in ICC competitions. The players’ stats in these tournaments are not great. I don’t know why anyone thinks we’ll do well in tournaments like these.”
Coming up against India in a do-or-die match was always going to be tough for the Proteas. But their inability to deal with pressure was the major difference between the two teams, says Gibbs.
“Kohli is far better at dealing with pressure than AB de Villiers. That’s where Virat is a class above. He can handle pressure, and stats don’t lie.
“During my time as a cricketer, I thrived from playing in high-pressure games more than anything else. The big moments brought out the best in me.”
Gibbs, who still holds the record as South Africa’s top-run scorer in the ICC Champions Trophy, believes another reason for the Proteas’ failure to perform in recent tournaments is because there’s no depth in the current squad.
“We have one or two worldclass bowlers and batsmen but unfortunately there’s no depth in our cricket any more, so they have to choose the same group of players over and over.
“I see so many naive comments that people make about the Proteas. They clearly have the wool over their eyes, and are scared to say it as it is.”
Gibbs is critical of De Villiers, the Proteas captain, for his poor performances and lack of commitment to the national side.
Former Proteas batsman Ashwell Prince also took to social media to voice his dismay at De Villiers’ lacklustre performances in England.
On Sunday, Prince tweeted: “Perhaps it’s time that @ OfficialCSA dictates to players when they may have the honour of representing this country instead of other way round.”
Gibbs echoes these sentiments. “There’s nobody bigger than the game. We have a player who dictates when he wants to play and when he doesn’t want to. It shouldn’t be that way.”
Former Proteas captain Graeme Smith says he is disappointed to see his former team knocked out so early in the tournament.
“The side have been missing that spark, or intensity to their play that characterises South Africa cricket,” Smith wrote in his weekly ICC column.
Smith, who is commentating at the ICC Champions Trophy, could see the “panic creep” in the dressing room during the crunch game against India.
“It’s (the) team’s approach that has been the missing ingredient. Since the team started against England in May, it hasn’t looked right to me as an observer.
“I’ve grown used to the freeflowing, often powerful starts to our batting (but) on Sunday it was slightly timid and that led to a position where you could almost see a panic creep in to our play,” he wrote.
Despite his criticism, the former Proteas skipper believes this squad is still one of the best the country has produced.
“I still believe this to be a wonderful short-form side, with very few, if any, weaknesses,” says Smith. “It just hasn’t happened on the field, especially with the bat and I know that those players will be hurting.”
Former Proteas opening batsman Herschelle Gibbs has openly laid into the current national side’s inability to cope under pressure.