Arthur’s exit played right into India’s hands

2010-01-27 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s tour to India, starting in Nagpur on February 2, was going to be a challenging one even before news broke about Mickey Arthur’s resignation. With the exit of Arthur and bowling coach Vinnie Barnes under a cloud of uncertainty just days before they fly to India, the Proteas are now certainly up against it.

Touring India is a dream of every cricketer. None of us will forget the scenes that played out on our fuzzy television screens as South Africa returned to international cricket at Eden Gardens in 1991, in front of hundreds of thousands of fans.

There is atmosphere, adulation and no small amount of pressure playing cricket in India. Cricketers are worshipped there, with tens of thousands of fans lining the streets simply to catch a glimpse of their sporting heroes.

But India can also be an unforgiving place to play cricket. If you are out of form there are not many places to hide. The talented Indian batsmen will latch on to bad bowling and tentative batsmen will be found out very quickly. Many Test teams have returned from India with casualties and I’m sure this tour will be no exception.

There are a number of South African cricketers who will be feeling the pressure and the unexpected shuffle in management personnel will not have helped. Ashwell Prince desperately needs some runs and Paul Harris needs to find the rhythm and form that got him into the top 10 world bowling rankings.

The tour will also be a test for JP Duminy, who needs confidence and belief that he can play spin. Wayne Parnell will have to put the hype of securing a hefty IPL contract behind him and will need to concentrate on doing his job as a fast bowler on wickets that will not give him a huge amount of assistance.

Johan Botha will be keen to reward the selectors for their renewed faith in him. Having to return to franchise cricket after captaining the Protea’s one-day team will no doubt have made him hungrier to play international cricket.

Will Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel be able to sustain their promising fast bowling partnership and will Jacques Kallis have it in him to give us another master class on facing spin on the subcontinent?

Graeme Smith and caretaker-coach Corrie van Zyl will need to address these questions and challenges and, most importantly, they will have to unite and motivate the team.

Mickey Arthur’s unexpected announcement has certainly played into India’s hands.

Not only are they at the top of the world’s Test rankings, but they also have a highly successful coach in Gary Kirsten securely in place. Kirsten is also surrounded by experts Paddy Upton and, more recently, Eric ­Simons, all with first-hand knowledge of the Protea players.

Arthur is the third coach Graeme Smith has worked under. First it was Ray Jennings and then current Indian bowling coach Simons.

The reasons for Smith’s fallout with Arthur will become clearer over the next couple of days, but the captain’s strong personality will no doubt have been a contributing factor.

South Africa can’t afford to be distracted by power struggles and controversy, however — they have important work to do in India.

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