No more time for T20 talk, it’s time to perform

2014-03-28 00:00

MUCH has been said of the Proteas and their performance to date in the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh and it’s time to perform, to deliver a performance of meaning to earn respect as a top cricket-playing nation.

An opening loss to Sri Lanka put the Proteas under enormous pressure for the remainder of the event, making every remaining game a must-win affair.

That nearly came apart against New Zealand and it was only Dale Steyn’s heroics in the final over, JP Duminy’s batting and some divine intervention from above that saw seven runs defended in the final over for a miraculous two-run win.

Against the lowly Netherlands, it wasn’t much better, another lacklustre performance all round seeing the men in green and gold getting home by a slender six runs.

It’s allowed the Proteas to still breathe in the tournament, but back home, general cricket chatter sends a clear message of no confidence in the side.

And rightly so. The cricket fans, the paying public who support the team, pay hard-earned money at the turnstiles and make sacrifices to attend matches, have had enough of mediocre T20 performances by a team acknowledged as one of the sport’s powerhouses.

Quite frankly, it looks as though the Proteas have either forgotten how to play decent, competitive T20 cricket or there is such an overdose of the sport these days that the shortest format has become a drag, a burden that needs to be played, and the quicker it can be dealt with, the better.

For the past two years, the Proteas’ coach and T20 captain have been churning out the same dialogue match after match. We have a shocking record in T20 internationals and every time we suffer a defeat, the same old drivel is tossed out. We have all heard it and read it.

Let’s jog the memory bank — “We are in a process of rebuilding, trying new combinations, looking for the right formula. We are building toward the World Cup and believe we have the right players in the squad to make a strong team.”

Sound familiar? Of course it does. Now that World Cup has arrived and the ship is still docked in harbour. We are nowhere near capable of matching and performing against the stronger sides and in fact, could rightly be considered as one of the weaker T20 teams on show.

Selection is always a talking point and while it will be a feather in the Proteas’ cap to win an ICC-sanctioned tournament, why not use the T20 format to blood some of the younger talent in our cricket ranks, enabling them to get a taste of international cricket, make decisions and prove their worth in pressure situations.

Sure, there will be times when we look totally out of things but it will encourage new players to perform, players who want to make themselves noticed in world cricket in the hope of climbing up the ladder to the ultimate pinnacle of Test cricket.

Does Hashim Amla have to play T20 cricket? Perhaps in the light of how the team are currently performing he is needed in the team, but that’s the trick. Let’s use some new players to ply their trade as it’s clear to see that AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Amla are worn out after the Test series against the Australians.

Where is Kyle Abbott, for example? He has performed admirably for the Dolphins in all formats for the past two seasons and is one of those players who will have to score three hundred at the top of the order and take all 20 wickets in a match to get any recognition from the selectors. No matter what he does, he gets cast aside, only turned to as a back- up as he is next in the supposed pecking order.

There should be no pecking order. No player is gifted his right to be in a side. It’s performance and results that have the final say and Abbott, to his credit, keeps producing despite knowing his opportunities are limited.

After Morné Morkel’s three overs for 50 runs against the Black Caps, Abbott must wonder what he is doing waiting for the rain to subside so he can take on the Lions in the Dolphins’ penultimate match of the four-day series.

There is much to debate and batting and bowling options can be discussed till the cows come home.

On the batting front though, David Miller has not performed well at the tournament, but despite calls from Dolphins coach Lance Klusener to bat him higher up the order, Proteas coach Russell Domingo has remained unmoved, with Miller having heaps of pressure piled on him whenever he bats.

People are expecting him to perform and he is fast becoming a scapegoat when the going gets tough.

What the Proteas need is a bunch of fearless T20 cricketers, with a strong, bigger-than-life captain who talks and produces the goods.

Graeme Smith did that for the Test team and look what we achieved. People never liked it at first, but it produced the results and took us to the No. 1 ranking — which we still have.

It’s time to roll out a new carpet and build a team from a stronger, fresher foundation.

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