Rediscovering specialist formula is key for Proteas

2013-03-10 10:00

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It’s no coincidence that when specialists are employed, matches are won, writes Khanyiso Tshwaku

If there is something all tournament winners share, it is a reliance on people who are picked to do a particular job.

As much as Collis King’s sparkling 66-ball 86 set the tone for the West Indies’ 286/9 in the 1979 Cricket World Cup in England, it was a specialist batsman in Sir Viv Richards who laid the winning platform.

Richards’ unbeaten 138 was the highest score in a World Cup final until Australian Adam Gilchrist’s explosive 149 against Sri Lanka 28 years later.

The thread is fine but simple: specialists will win tournaments.

After all, all the batsmen who have delivered in big games are custom-made for the job.

And the same applies to bowlers.

That’s all Australia and the West Indies have used to record past successes.

Piecemeal players have never worked, as England realised at the turn of the last century.

Twice they bombed out at the group stages of consecutive World Cups.

In fact, it has taken them a decade to understand the importance of having the right people for the job, and it’s no coincidence that their recent upswing in ODI fortunes has come with them entrusting specialists.

So it’s perplexing how the Proteas somehow abandoned that formula, which worked so well for them over the years.

That formula needs to be rediscovered, fine-tuned and perfected over a five-match ODI series starting today at Chevrolet Park in Bloemfontein.

The series offers them the only audition ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy in June, which takes place in the UK.

The hearts of domestic performers will be broken, but hardened battle veterans need to be taken into battle.

A quick glance at statistics from the last World Cup in 2011 shows the top three run scorers being Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara (both Sri Lanka), and Sachin Tendulkar (India).

It was no surprise that Sri Lanka and India contested the final.

AB de Villiers was South Africa’s top run scorer in that tournament but only number nine on the overall run scorers’ list. It was bookmarked by a humiliating quarterfinal exit.

As important as Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis may be to the cause, De Villiers is the closest thing the Proteas have to a specialist ODI batsman since Herschelle Gibbs.

Notwithstanding the above-mentioned batters’ vast talents and experience, De Villiers is the full package with a gun-powder vault and a trip switch.

The bowling is settled but the batting roles need to be defined and refined.

The road to redemption for the Proteas starts today and it will not be rose-lined.

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