‘We let South Africans down’

2011-03-26 18:54

Under normal circumstances the heads of coach Corrie van Zyl and captain Graeme Smith would be on the chopping block after the Proteas’ horrendous collapse against New Zealand in Friday’s quarterfinal that once again condemned them to the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup scrapheap.

But these are not normal circumstances as Smith had made it clear that he would step down as the one-day international captain after the event regardless of how the team fared, while Van Zyl’s contract automatically ends now.

Following the latest failure, Smith and his class of 2011 will continue to bear the brunt of fans and media alike, something he is well aware of.

He said after the match: “There’s nothing I can say right now to make the fans feel better. We feel terrible.

“It’s been going on since 1992. We are not the only World Cup team that hasn’t gone on to win.

“I cannot fault the way the team has trained and prepared, but we let ourselves down and we let a lot of people back home down. There are no excuses for that.

“When the team gets home daggers and swords will be thrown, and there is a group of people here that are just going to have to take it on the chin.”

A new coach and a new captain will be the start of the Proteas’ rebuilding ahead of the next World Cup in four years time.

Gary Kirsten, the current India coach, is many people’s favourite for the job of coaching the Proteas, while former England coach and current consultant to the Proteas, Duncan Fletcher, is also believed to have thrown his hat into the ring.

However, the best choice may be a rather left-field appointment.

Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming is believed to be interested in the job and, despite his rather limited experience of coaching at the highest level, Fleming would bring no baggage with him.

Kirsten and Fletcher both have close ties to the current Proteas’ team but Fleming would have no such attachment.

Fleming earned himself a reputation as one of the most innovative captains in world cricket, and an outsiders perspective on South Africa’s failings at ICC events may be the best way to finally remove the “chokers” tag.

On the playing front, this was almost certainly the 35-year-old Jacques Kallis’s last attempt to clinch the coveted trophy.

One major plus from this year’s World Cup was the emergence of South Africa’s spin trio of left-armer Robin Peterson, leg-spinner Imran Tahir and off-spinner Johan Botha, a man tipped by many to become the Proteas’ next limited-overs captain.

Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel confirmed their credentials as the world’s best new-ball pair while AB de Villiers showed that he is one of the world’s elite batsmen and despite getting little game time, Lonwabo Tsotsobe is also one for the future.

The match against New Zealand highlighted one of the concerns raised about the Proteas’ squad before this tournament started, namely that of a finisher in the middle-order.

Once New Zealand had winkled out Kallis and De Villiers, the only two batsmen to score with much confidence on the slow, low-track in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the middle- and lower-order simply folded under the pressure exerted by The Black Caps. – MWP Media

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