Lots of promise, little success

2009-12-29 11:40

 

MORE than a decade without any major silverware should be a huge

concern to any coach and cricket administration in the world.

Yet this has become the trademark of South African cricket since

their last Champions Trophy victory in Bangladesh in 1998.

Wicketkeeper Mark Boucher and Makhaya Ntini, who celebrated his

100th cap in the national set-up recently, were infants in international cricket

at the time but were surrounded by experienced campaigners in Darryl Cullinan,

Gary Kirsten, Hansie Cronje and Allan Donald.

Since these legends called it a day, local cricket has gone through

a rocky patch which includes a first-round exit from the 2003 World Cup on home

soil.

But last season proved to be a turnaround indeed. The Proteas won a

Test series in England and Australia before walloping the Aussies once again in

the return One Day International (ODI) tour.

They, however, lost the return Test

series 2-1 and the English ODI series.

By the end of the season the team sat deservedly and comfortably at

the top of ODI cricket and a few weeks before the start of the Champions Trophy,

old foes England sent the Proteas to the top of the Test rankings after

defeating Australia in the Ashes.

Many thought the sun had finally shone on the team as the young

talents JP Duminy and Wayne Parnell provided enough depth to challenge for

honours.

Experienced campaigners like Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers all

came to the party and made the Proteas the most formidable side since the class

of ’98.

However, what transpired during the Twenty20 World Cup hosted by

England in June left more questions than answers. The team lost in the semifinal

to Pakistan after being touted as favourites, going through the event unbeaten

until then.

Top cricketing nations India and Australia were going through a

rough patch at the time, while the Proteas rode the crest of a wave.

Notable hurdles in the way of Graeme Smith’s boys and the trophy

were Sri Lanka and eventual winners Pakistan. In their match Umar Gul and Shahid

Afridi produced a splendid display to guide Pakistan to a seven-run victory and

­deny the Proteas a chance to end the long-standing drought.

After the defeat coach Mickey Arthur told City Press: “This format

(T20) is different; whoever gets it right on the day wins the match.”

This was just a feeble excuse to shield their obvious

failure.

The team did, however, maintain pole position in the run-up to the

Champions Trophy in September and were once again touted as ­favourites.

On paper the group was said to be an easy one judging by the

sublime form the team was in, but the opening match against Sri Lanka proved

otherwise.

The sub-continent kings won the contest by 55 runs in a

Duckworth-Lewis decision before Andrew Strauss and his Poms added to their woes,

sending the Proteas out of the group stages of the showpiece.

After the defeat Arthur reiterated what has become his trademark

comment: “We know we have let the nation down, but we hope to improve in the

future.”

With the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and the Twenty20 showpiece

in West Indies looming large, it remains to be seen whether the team will

­improve.

The recent 2-1 ODI series loss to the touring England proves

otherwise and has sent a caution to the selectors to axe some players.

Makhaya Ntini and Herschelle Gibbs have achieved much in the

Proteas set-up, but if the future is what the selectors and the technical team

are seriously considering, the duo should be dropped.

Veteran Kallis still has a role to play, but Mark Boucher’s

international future needs a review.

After struggling for years to have spin in the attack, Roelof van

der Merwe and Johan Botha came out tops in the Australian series.

However, the latter has spent more time in the lab than on the

field having his bowling action tested after being reported for illegal bowling

action on several occasions.

He has since been demoted to an average bowler and has lost the

venom that made him the pick of the spin bowlers.

Best moments of 2009

Historic Test win against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket

Ground (MCG).

Duminy’s 166 against Australia to propel the Proteas to their

first Test series win down under.

SA ending the season topping both the ODI and Test

rankings.

Worst moments of 2009

A dismal performance by the Proteas which saw the team crash out

in the first round of the Champions’ Trophy.

ODI ­Series loss to England.

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