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Smug with success?

2009-09-25 07:41

Every time I hear Graeme Smith at a pre- or post- cricket match interview, he looks quite content and comfortable, almost smug with the knowledge that the team he’s leading has the potential to dominate any other team in a given one day, and increasingly nowadays, in any five day match.

It is clearly a satisfying feeling, and the words with which he rounds off to display his conviction, are also at these interviews, inevitably heard: “We’ve had a good last two years or thereabouts, the team has been grafting really hard and the success paid off in our results.”

This cannot be denied, as South Africa certainly has had a pride-inspiring two year period, and in which Smith played a key part with both his leadership and performances, most markedly demonstrated perhaps in his one-man stand battle in the series-deciding test match victory against England at Birmingham last year with his man of the match, unbeaten score of 154, and his ‘Captain Courageous’ effort of coming out to bat injured against Australia in the final innings of the last match played Down Under in the beginning of this year, which some Australian reports claimed, however, was only effective in detracting attention from Australia’s remarkable victory on that day.

Sorry for stealing the spotlight for split-second there mates, we know how you love it.

But one thing from which we must not detract ourselves, and in so doing also merely become culprits of riding on our image, is that all these performances, though painstakingly accomplished, and in the rewards of which we should by all means sweetly indulge, will remain where they are, and that is in the past. With our renewed and strengthened armory of experience in achievement, our aim must now lie to breach barriers thus far unsurpassed, which we will again come to encounter in the future.

Admittedly, we have not had much match practice, and this fact was perhaps most dearly responsible for our recent loss against Sri Lanka in the opening match of the ICC championships Trophy, where we were visibly rusty. However, I have a feeling we thought leading this campaign would just follow as a matter of course, and although there is perhaps a lot of pressure on us to perform (being the host nation), our players are mature and experienced enough not to let the pressure bring them down too much.

To the contrary in fact, they seem to be rather immune to pressure – the 2007 World Cup being an example where we went in as favourites, and allowed Australia to run away with a score of 377 in our group match (which we started off chasing pretty impressively) - seemingly thinking there is no score we can’t chase, possibly owing to our historic performance a while earlier in the famed ‘434’ game.

Again in the 20/20 World Cup earlier this year in England, we were on solid form, suffocating every team hoping to threaten us, and strolling to the semi final against Pakistan undefeated, again posed as favourites. There we lost, but it had been a long season, and our “20/20” vision, so to speak, just seemed to have taken a slight dip on that day.

We come into this new Championship well rested out, with time to have reflected on our past achievements. We looked unquestionably more focused in our second match against New Zealand, winning by 5 wickets and 53 balls remaining, with the talisman AB de Villiers leading the charge in emphatic style with his sharp-eyed, cool-headed, and enduring presence. 

Having lost to Sri Lanka might actually not be such a bad thing, as we will now not be shrouded (and clouded) by an air of invincibility as we were in the 20/20 competition, which is much harder to uphold.  A platform, one might say, has therefore been laid pretty strongly, but it is now at this junction in which our mindset rises to the fore as an integral element to our potential success.

It is for this reason that we can now not afford to bask in the glory of our prior success, and we must contract the focus which saw us roaring to victory against New Zealand today, with all the opponents we will encounter over the next two weeks. At the same time, we must remain humble and see our opponents on the same level as a boxer might see his across the ring – on equal footing, and with an understanding that only with a tireless fight, and palpable desire, will we prevail.

This we must do, because as much as the country remembers and admires our successes from the past and as much as our captain believes in our ability, it has also not been forgotten that our trophy cabinet still echoes eerily in emptiness.

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Comments
  • jannie - 2009-09-25 07:56

    SA Cricket is like New Zealand Rugby - we win all matches during the year and become number 1 in the world, but when we have to win the big ones (World Cup, Championship Trophees), we choke. We are number 1 by the width of a "balhaar". When Australia was number 1 for years, they were way ahead of anyone. But I support SA 100% and wish Greame and the boys all the best!

  • dave - 2009-09-25 07:56

    We have a great side on paper and generally deliver great performances BUT, until we win a major competition without choking, it means NOTHING. Lots of ardent Proteas fans scoff at the word but when you analyze the 'chokes' at events like the last two T20's and World Cups, you'll generally find that when the pressure's on in a semi, our guys don't have the mental strength and tactical know-how to adapt to the situation and change tactics, etc. Smith and Arthur are the guilty parties. This past T20 semi was unforgivable - losing with something like 5 wickets in hand. Duminy simply wasn't up to it. But the worst thing was that Smith and Arthur did not even get a message out to him and Kaliis by means of a glove change, to sacrifice their wicket for Morkel to come in to bat. Let's hope if need be this time, they will have gained some tactical ability and mental toughness to cope with a pressure situation.

  • patriot - 2009-09-25 07:57

    BUT THE SA TEAM IS GREAT,why must South Africans, allways be humble, No one else is,Thats why we look week, we dont stand up to THE IRB with the blatent bad reffing,We dont stand up to Cricket board, when clearly, Dumminy and Van der merwe, we young players of the year, And then The Sri Lanka, game was just fantastic Bowling from Mendis, we did not play that bad, Besides when the rain came we only needed 8 a over, going into the power play, with to form players at the creece

  • Lost - 2009-09-25 08:10

    WHAT?? Dude this article is so anal I can feel my prostate being massaged.

    Confidence is a good thing. Relying on your preparation is a good thing. Sport unfortunately will throw you curve balls and Sri Lanka was always gonna be our main opposition in this group.

  • Roger - 2009-09-25 08:20

    We count the wins but dont win the one that counts. Hopefully this year.

  • patriot - 2009-09-25 08:21

    BUT THE SA TEAM IS GREAT,why must South Africans, allways be humble, No one else is,Thats why we look week, we dont stand up to THE IRB with the blatent bad reffing,We dont stand up to Cricket board, when clearly, Dumminy and Van der merwe, we young players of the year, And then The Sri Lanka, game was just fantastic Bowling from Mendis, we did not play that bad, Besides when the rain came we only needed 8 a over, going into the power play, with to form players at the creece

  • James - 2009-09-25 08:25

    Im sorry, but we have quite literally the best Cricket and Rugby teams in the world. WOW South Africans can moan!! When we win everything there is to possibly win at this level, we STILL find something to maon about. If Greame Smith wants to start a Haka and parade the steets from an open top bus let him be, they are winning and we need to stand by them. They are smug because they are the best in the world. They are the best in the world becuase they worked the hardest, and will continue to do so. Why don't you go back to work so you can be proud of something for a change.

  • Pete - 2009-09-25 08:26

    If you compare Smith to what he was like years ago, he is far from smug - he is moderate, calm and humble (and I say that as someone who never was a Smith fan). I think the team has felt great pain over its losses and lack of silverware, but sport is such a self-belief thing - you have to believe you can do it, else you've lost already. Their approach to New Zealand was very careful and respectful - I think that Sri Lanka was good for them and they are getting better. The very reason Oz were so good is the very reason you now criticise the Proteas - they relied heavily on psychology, self-belief, sledging and their reputation. We have never been like that, ever - the Proteas have always been understated. Even when ranked no.1 they argued that they had so much still to get right. So, I cannot support your view Bartho.

  • tshepo - 2009-09-25 08:28

    good morning south africa

    so gavin smith got a lucky wn yesterday whoopi doo... i still dont think they are worthy of being number 1 in the world in test or one day action.

  • tom - 2009-09-25 08:32

    You should consider a career as a journalist in the UK...no matter what the positives are, they manage to write in a manner designed to pull down and denigrate success.
    Hope you get over your inferiority complex soon. The international press certainly lauds SA crickets self belief which is completly differnt from the Aussie arrogance.Perhaps you need to travel to broaden your horizons?

  • Chris G - 2009-09-25 08:32

    At least it looks like Kallis, Smith and Boucher have been avoiding the buffet table... have another carrot stick guys.

  • Brandon - 2009-09-25 08:46

    Nah chief. I don't think this one flies.

  • TS - 2009-09-25 08:55

    Yep there is definitely an arrogance about him. You see it in the what they say as well, if you read the news24 articles. Dale Steyn "no team can match us" - i think you jumped the gun son, Sri Lanka brought you guys back down to earth with a THUMPING victory. Although you can't say they choked coz its only the first match. If they lose in the quarters or semis then we can say they're chokers again :)

  • michael - 2009-09-25 09:13

    Quite agree with Lost - didn't you have anything better to publish this morning.
    Sri Lanka have been playing for the last 3 months. This is just another 'the glass is half empty'article!!!!

  • boet - 2009-09-25 09:13

    Ag whatever... I love our team, they are great

  • justice4all - 2009-09-25 09:16

    Nice article,

  • Poloyatonki@Bartho - 2009-09-25 09:27

    Well, man I hear what you are saying. On the other hand of our SA sport, SAFA is having its elections but the standard of soccer is phethetic because of poor management. I bet you SAFA bosses cant even run a strip club. Bunch of idiots. I hate SA Soccer!!!!!

  • drew - 2009-09-25 09:32

    Agree fully with Dave, NO tactical know how! S & A seem to work out a plan (a week)before the game, and never seem to change it, no matter the circumstances. Yesterday's game v NZ a case in point. Needing to up our run rate, why did we not use the powerplay early to gain full advantage and end with an overall positive run rate? NZ, knowing they had no chance winning, bowled out their best bowlers in an attempt to slow SA down. Another problem with our batting at present, is our inability to "go over the top" in the first few overs. If we want to win at 20/20 and 50 over competitions, we need to start playing a little more "out the box".

  • Halfwise - 2009-09-25 09:32

    You cricket fans have less to worry about. Think about us soccer funs, we are expecting embarrassment next year. Bafana is a shit team!!!!!!!!

  • Crocket - 2009-09-25 09:46

    To the author: CONFIDENCE and SMUGNESS are two completely different things. Graeme Smith is confident, NOT smug. If we are number 1 in the world in both forms of the game and still can't be confident then there is something seriously wrong with us. We came in completely cold against Sri Lanka and suffered, but turned up for the game against NZ yesterday. Once we win one ICC one day tournament, we will go on to win many more over the next few years.
    Being the best in the world means knowing that you are the best and having the game and guts to go on to win the tournament as favourites. Graeme is not hiding behind the "we are the underdogs" tag.

  • Supporter - 2009-09-25 09:47

    I agree with Jannie in NZ(?)and Dave we always choke when we should win the most important games. It takes a huge amount of work to stay at the top Graeme and the Proteas are over confident at the moment - we should have won against Sri Lanka. The Aussies have staying power SA don't. I will always support SA but don't be over confident. Winning gives us fat heads and then we mess up BIG TIME!!

  • SimonP - 2009-09-25 09:56

    And the prize for smugness goes to......Barto von Tonder!

  • morena - 2009-09-25 09:56

    Bartho i'm with you all the way they starting to be arrogant now and where was steyn when sri lanka put a chase of over 300 and what is that that he said just days before "we are the best no one can beat us" just like what andrew simmonds said when we played that massive last one day inter where more than 10 records were broken and yet Simmond's team aus lost that game

  • Sugan - 2009-09-25 10:05

    Not only has Smith an attitude, so does the coach. Smith needs to be brought down to earth as he is not the best captain and role model around!

  • michael - 2009-09-25 10:09

    Some armchair critics make it sound sooo easy.

  • Ghwappie - 2009-09-25 11:07

    Tshepo? Who the f... is "Gavin" Smith? Shows how much you know about the game, so please don't comment on it.

  • Bonny - 2009-09-25 11:35

    @Halfwise. My word..for the first time time that I can fathom, you have actually said something smart.

  • Bartho - 2009-09-25 11:49

    The article does come across quite harsh, in fairness, the interview I was referring to was the one before the Sri Lanka match before we came back and beat New Zealand in classy style. Don't get me wrong, I love our cricketers, and I think Smith is a very good captain (now more so than a few years ago). But I feel for them for the criticism they might receive in they don't win this trophy, perhaps unfairly so.

    I'm only urging that we stay alert and keep our high standards because now we still have the chance to do something about stifling our critics - and our mindset is critical. If we display the same professionalism we did against New Zealand, keep our feet on the ground and go through and win this trophy, no-one can argue that we are the best team in the world, and no-one will call us chokers.

  • Hopeful! - 2009-09-25 13:52

    The Proteas and the Bokke have worked very hard to earn the title of being No.1. We cannot take that away from them at all. I only hope that Bafana can pick up their game and get some inspiration from the Bokkke and Proteas. SA is GREAT!!!

  • MC - 2009-09-26 15:51

    GO PROTEAS

  • Mike - 2009-09-28 22:48

    And how right you were Bartho. Once again SA choked...............

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