Proteas need players who can take the pres­sure – Her­schelle

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - SAMEER NAIK

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.”

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

For­mer Proteas open­ing bats­man Her­schelle Gibbs has openly laid into the cur­rent na­tional side’s in­abil­ity to cope un­der pres­sure.

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