Kass Naidoo

Who cares about the Proteas?

2007-11-30 08:34

Kass Naidoo

Most places I've been this week, the conversation has revolved around Jacob Zuma and what he will make of his increasingly likely Presidency of South Africa, legal challenges aside.

Two things stand out: that broad-based support for Zuma seems to be an increasing phenomenon, but more interestingly, I sense a diminished negativity overall, with people on both sides of the fence wanting to see things improve.

We might not agree on how to do that, but a majority of us care deeply about our country.

This in turn got me thinking about many of your emails I've received in response to these columns and how, by contrast, the majority seem negative. It's clear that many readers leaving comments are still grinding their teeth about the lost Cricket World Cups, refusing to move on.

The fact is that the Proteas have picked up the pieces and have moved on, and they're doing okay.

Useless and incapable

By my reckoning, we've played 13 ODIs since exiting the Caribbean World Cup in April - Ireland (1); India (3); Zimbabwe (3); Pakistan (5) and New Zealand (1) - with nine wins, eight Pro20s with six wins, and four Tests with three wins and one draw.

Some of you have accused me of living life with blinkers on, refusing to "accept that our team is useless and incapable of winning a World Cup". So, what do we do? Give up cricket? A saying concerning noses and knives comes to mind. In that case, every top international team that has failed to win a World Cup should just pack it in and retire. That leaves... who?

The reality is that a crucial four years lie ahead for South Africa as we build towards the 2011 World Cup. I guess the big question is, how do we do that? Is it about consistent selection, or blooding new players?

The next World Cup takes place in Asia and we need a minimum of two quality front-line spinners to be really competitive in those conditions.

Verdict is premature

Three hands have magically emerged in the ring in recent times, Paul Harris terrorizing most teams he's faced, Johan Botha looking a sure bet after remedial work on his bowling action, and what about Thandi Tshabalala?

Harris is under the gun in the fielding department, and the feeling is that he's strictly cut out for the Test arena, but I think a verdict is premature. Botha has that same gung-ho attitude about him, and he's been as stingy as any of the pace bowlers against New Zealand, and could be said to have performed better than visiting genius, the admittedly under-fire, Daniel Vettori.

Now, the feeling about Tshabalala is that if he's going to be ready, he needs to be given a real opportunity soon. In his four ODI appearances his stats don't make for great reading, but he did emerge as the country's leading wicket-taker in the first two seasons of domestic Pro20.

Just past his 23rd birthday, many would say he's too young for serious consideration, but in four years time he'll be... my point exactly.

Compromise

Jacques Kallis has been upfront about his burning desire to beat Australia in a Test series, and we'll be visiting Down Under next summer for our next opportunity.

Is it a realistic ambition? Jake White decided he wanted to win the World Cup more than the Tri-Nations and focused on Paris. Should we compromise an opportunity to have a full go at the Aussies, to push for a World Cup win in 2011?

The one email read: "C'mon Kass, how do you really feel?" Well, here it is: I care. When we lose, it hurts, but when we win, I'm with the rest of you, jumping around like a lunatic. All along, I'm a die-hard South African cricket supporter, and that's unlikely to change.

So, while many of you are stuck in a time-warp of the Proteas Caribbean exit against Australia, or their failure to win the Twenty20 World Championship, I am still savouring Andre "Chuck Norris" Nel single-handedly stealing the game from a disconsolate Black Caps outfit in Durbs last weekend. From choking on them, the spare ribs are tasting just great.

Fit for action

The main talking point ahead of Friday's second ODI against New Zealand in Port Elizabeth will be whether Test bowling speedster Dale Steyn will get a look-in to the limited overs side, but I'm more interested in what the selectors have to say about Botha's form, which must be encouraging given our country's history of spin.

The match starts at 14:30 and Herschelle Gibbs has been passed fit for action. Let the fireworks begin!

  • Kass Naidoo is editor of gsport... for Girls!

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