Glory boy heydays are gone, it’s now all about the team

2010-07-14 00:00

IT’S BACK to reality after South Africa’s incredible hosting of the World Cup. Watching almost every game, I’m sure I’m one of many South Africans who wished it had never come to an end.

Two things stood out for me in this memorable tournament. Firstly, the amazing underachievement of many star players and, secondly, the emergence of a new generation of team players. In the end, it was teamwork, not the efforts of the glory boys, that grabbed the headlines.

Our cricketers, who have yet to get their hands on any silverware from an ICC tournament, might do well to take notice. In my opinion, we have relied too heavily in the past on the standout performances of a few individuals at the expense of developing our team structures.

Spain, Holland and Germany have a number of outstanding individual players, but it was the way they combined as a unit that saw them earn their place in the final four of the World Cup.

Even when forced to replace some of their better-known players, their replacements seemed to slip seamlessly into position. The loss of Michael Ballack, the German captain, to injury just before the tournament hardly appeared to affect the German team.

Their young players stood up, took responsibility and fitted straight into the teamwork pattern established by their coach.

I can’t help thinking what a devastating impact losing one or two of our top players would have on the Proteas’ performance.

We’ve seen individuals in the Protea line-up who, apart from the runs they score and the wickets they take, add little value to the team.

Fortunately there are those who put the team first, and Hashim Amla is undoubtedly one of them. A quiet, unassuming character, Amla does little to draw attention to himself, yet his level of commitment cannot be questioned.

Not only does he excel as a top- order batsman, but he’s the first to put up his hand to field in the most dangerous positions on the field — short leg or silly point.

Aware of the crucial role he plays for his team, Amla takes many blows and spends hours under the helmet without complaint. There is very little glory fielding in these positions and there are many cricketers who would not be prepared to risk injury fielding there.

It’s tempting for coaches and selectors to give more weight to statistics and averages when selecting their sides, but these facts form only part of the picture. I think more emphasis needs to be placed on a player’s ability to work effectively in a team.

Germany’s successful coach Joachim Loew says that instead of picking the best players he has a vision of how his team should perform and chooses players whom he thinks will be able to carry it out. I think our coaches and selectors could learn much from his philosophy.

Too many of our cricketers put their individual performances ahead of the team, and South Africa’s lack of success in ICC tournaments is one of the unfortunate consequences.

Self-absorbed individuals will provide moments of brilliance but, when it comes to winning tournaments, it is selfless players like Amla who we sorely need.

The shift from an individual to a team mindset is as vital in cricket as it is in football.

Diego Maradona admitted after the 2010 World Cup that in his day he was more selfish as a player, but that it’s a very different game nowadays. Perhaps that’s food for thought for our cricketers?

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