A pall o f gloom descends o ver crick et
The Proteas have much to do if they are to be serious World Cup contenders, writes RAY WHITE
AB de Villiers may be forgiven his injudicious r emarks about his t eam’s performance in the losing ODI serie s in Australia. As capt ain of the squad he probably feels bound to put a positi ve spin on an ything he sa ys ahead of the looming World Cup. It w ould be dis turbing, h owever, i f h e g enuinely believes that his team is the best oneday outfit in the w orld and is the t eam to beat at ne xt y ear’s t ournament.
This is not to say that his team cannot win the 2015 World Cup. After all the competition boils do wn to which one of the t op eight t eams can win thr ee knockout matches in a row. This sounds relatively simple, but the underlying implication of this requirement is that on those thr ee da ys e verything mus t g o right for these Proteas if they are to be the winning t eam.
Let us start with the captain himself. As things s tand, he will ha ve to come off in all three of those matches. Without him, the rest of the batting is simply not good enough t o get the job done under the pr essure of a W orld C up knockout match. Yet on the recent tour he b atted brilliantl y t o mak e thr ee scores over 50 and his eamt lost all three matches ag ainst an A ustralian t eam that not onc e fielded it s be st at tack.
It may be wr ong t o c onclude fr om this that De Villiers actually has to score three big centuries in a row to give his team a chance of ultimate victory, but the point has been illus trated that the pressure on him not to fail at any stage will be almos t int olerable.
It is also said of ODI crick et that it is essential that a batsman who gets in must go on to make at least 100. During the r ecent serie s, H ashim Amla and Quinton de Kock went on to make centuries and y et the P roteas los t both those mat ches.
It ma y be ar gued that w hen much goes right with the bat as it did in this series and the team still loses, the problems it faces are more serious than when everything goes wrong. The reasoning behind this logic is that if the bit plyaers cannot make telling scores when a good foundation has been laid for them they are unlikely to do so if things go badly upfront.
Rarely can a player’s stature have improved so emphatically by not playing as did that of JP Duminy as he watched this series from the sidelines. Not only is he now expected to provide some balance to a listing outfit, but he also looks to be the sa viour of the middleor der batting that just once saw the team to safety and that was an unconvincing effort in the face of a total on the low side of moder ate.
Perhaps Duminy was the unspok en thought that inspir ed De V illiers t o speak with such c onfidence about his team’s pr ospects but an a wful lo ad is about t o be thrus t ont o Dumin y’s shoulders. He was missed in Australia, but it is disappointing that none of the other fringe players established himself in the t eam.
David Miller surely did enough to secure a place on the squad, but he must be regretting that twice he had an opportunity to win a mat ch for his team and failed both times to do so. He bats in that position where World Cup glory is certain to beckon him at leas t once, but does he ha ve the t emperament to answer the call?
If the b atting of this P roteas t eam was ordinary in Australia, the bowling varied from excellent on the one occasion in Perth to simply awful. The bowlers never looked like defending any of the totals that the Aussies were set. The “death” bowling apart from that of Kyle Abbott was poor and e ven he blot ted his c opybook under pr essure in the close g ame in S ydney b y bo wling no balls and le gside full t osses.
It looked as though Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morné Morkel were conserving their ener gy f or the summer’s more important battles. The selectors must be concerned that neither Wayne P arnell nor R yan M cLaren looked capable of fulfilling the t ask of a fourth bowler who can make some valuable runs. Either of the se two will be fortunate to make the final squad, but who fr om the dome stic g ame is sug gesting himself as a r eplacement?
Imran Tahir did w ellenough ap art from dr opping an absolut e doll y that cost his team the fir st match in Perth. Alviro Peterson exceeded expectations as he often does and has probably edged ahead of Aaron Phangiso. He certainly adds something to fielding and batting.
The fielding was generally good apart from a couple of dropped catches, but it was dis turbing that not onc e when a runout chance was presented did the fielder manag e t o thr ow do wn the stumps. These are the kind of dismissals that can turn matches and must be taken in a World Cup. When these chances arise, it is essential that the fielder sets himself and throws in the mode of a otp baseballer. Side arm throws à la Miller usually mis s the t arget.
South Africa has yet to win a knockout match in a W orld Cup and mus t win three in a row to win the ultimate prize, a task that currently looks beyond them. It all c ounts f or lit tle, h owever, following the heart breaking death of Philip Hughes. We have been cruelly reminded that crick et is a dang erous game, particularly at the highe st le vel where bowlers can deli ver a ball in excess of 1 40 km/h. Helmets have saved many batsmen from serious injury, but tragically, in Hughe s’s case, the b all struck the unprotected brain stem at the back of his neck. A key artery was damaged and surgery was unable to save one of the g ame’s out standing t alents.
A pall of gloom has de scended over the entire cricket world as it mourns the death of Hughe s, a “y oung man w ho was killed pla ying the g ame that he loved among people w ho lo ved him”.
Proteas c aptain AB de Villier s has a l ot t o think about be fore ne xt y ear’s crick et W orld Cup .