Calm of Amla needed

2010-02-24 00:00

THE pressure is firmly on the Proteas to square the ODI series against India in Gwalior this morning.

The very-near escape that Wayne Parnell and Dale Steyn almost engineered shouldn’t mask South Africa’s very ordinary showing with the bat in Sunday’s opener in Kolkata.

The top-order, shorn of the most in-form batsman in Hashim Amla, was a curious mixture of bashers and bazzlers — and nothing in between.

Regardless of Amla’s slower tempo in the limited overs game, he thrives in the sub-continent conditions and invariably brings a calm head to proceedings.

Stand in captain Jacques Kallis needed a cool head to stay with him in the middle of the South Africans’ run chase, but was left stranded due to a combination of poor shot selection and terrible umpiring.

There were more than a few dubious calls under the Kolkata night sky, but the Proteas will do well to remember that they contributed heartily to their own demise.

Kallis stood out with bat and ball, but the added responisibility of captaincy certainly doesn’t help.

He is a bowler light when Albie Morkel doesn’t hit his straps — and that has been a common problem for the last six months.

Morkel the bowler is in the side because of the promise of Morkel the batsman.

It is a massive gamble and one which looks increasingly foolish when the likes of Steyn and Parnell show they are not mugs with the willow either.

Certainly, an on-song Morkel — as he showed in Australia — can take the game away from the opposition in one brutal power play, but those displays are proving increasingly infrequent.

The idea that he is bound to come right soon is one way of thinking of it, but then again, that’s what Sharks fans keep telling themselves in the Super 14, and look where they are!

The Proteas brainstrust keeps on calling this tour of India a “fact-finding” mission, an opportunity to see which combinations work best ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Well, if that is the case, there ought to have been a few more changes to the squad.

The likes of Morne van Wyk and Rusty Theron are still playing domestic cricket when they really ought to have been in India to see if they may present a new way of doing things.

It’s hard to understand what more Van Wyk needs to do, because even when Mark Boucher was injured, his name was hardly mentioned as a possible option.

The Free Stater bludgeons the ball expertly, and his keeping and temperament is good enough for the shorter version.

But the Proteas will soldier on with the squad that they have.

While the debate rambles on about player safety ahead of the IPL, which starts in a few months, the Proteas will be trying desperately to preserve their interests in this series.

Truth be told, though, defeat will not be the worst outcome for the Proteas today.

It would at least open the door for the lesser lights in the squad to play in a dead rubber, and at least we may know a bit more about who can do what in the Indian cauldron.

Teams:

India:

India (probable) Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Sreesanth/Sudeep Tyagi.

South Africa:

Herschelle Gibbs, Loots Bosman/Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis (capt), AB de Villiers, Alviro Petersen, Mark Boucher (wk), Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Johan Botha, Charl Langeveldt.

TV: on Supersport 2 and CSN from 10.30am.

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