Proteas ‘to stay humble’

2008-12-23 00:00

Melbourne — Staying relaxed and focused will be the key message Mickey Arthur gives the Proteas going into the second Test against Australia at the MCG on Friday.

The Proteas are 1-0 up in the three-match series following their six-wicket win at Perth and the Australians find themselves in a position they haven’t experienced for 20 years — losing the first match of a home series. That happened when Viv Richards was still in charge of the West Indies in 1988.

Australia have only come from behind three times in their entire history in a three-match series.

Arthur spoke at length yesterday about the preparation for the big showdown, saying the match would not be about skills, but about making the right mental shift.

“The mood is excellent,” he said. “The guys are in a very good state right now. The victory was well celebrated but the key for us and the message that Graeme (Smith) and I are giving everybody is to stay humble. We came into this Test series very relaxed, very focused. We have to maintain that.

“One victory does not make a summer. There is still a huge amount of cricket left for us to play. So the message is enjoy the moment, but it is back to hard work tomorrow.”

Arthur was also able to present a positive report on the injury front, particularly on the way forward for captain Graeme Smith.

“Ashwell (Prince) was re-X-rayed yesterday and he is making very good progress. I guess the test will come tomorrow when he gets into the nets and then we will know where we are.

“Graeme had a jab this morning. It is fine. At some point we are going to have to sit down and discuss the plan going forward as to exactly what we do with it, but it is not going to keep him out of this Test or the next one.

“But there is going to be a breaking point, otherwise it is going to be more of the same (injury) and we can’t afford that.”

Arthur neatly sidestepped the debate going in the Australian media at the moment about the form and prospects of several senior players.

“It has been a bit surprising,” he commented, “but at the end of the day we have been on that side of the scale before. When you lose, there is often a bit of panic generated by the media, generated by the public.

“What we have seen since Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath have gone is that Brett Lee has done a huge amount of bowling. (Stuart) Clark has obviously been a huge foil for him and, without anybody doing the holding job for him, perhaps his role has sometimes been a bit confused.

“Brett has always been the go-to man. He is bowling a lot more now and we noticed that from the West Indies (tour) because you want to get a result. The effectiveness of a unit revolves around a couple of guys and maybe it was the lack of a holding bowler that was missing at Perth.”

The lack of success of Lee at Perth inevitably turned the discussion to Mitchell Johnson, the man who claimed 11 of the 14 Proteas’ wickets to fall in the first Test and what was going to be done to contain him.

“All our guys who throw left-handed are going to be doing a lot of work over the next few days,” said Arthur.

“He has the ability to make us defend to cover instead of defending to mid-off which brings your slips and gully into play. We will be doing a bit of work on that ….”

Arthur also spoke about the work he and Smith had put in with man-of-the-match AB de Villiers over the last few months and how he had matured into a world-class batsman.

“AB’s breakthrough moment for me was at Headingley. It was quite a tough situation. He got out at Lord’s running down the wicket to Panesar … just when we were getting in a position to dominate.

“Graeme and I were quite hard on him. We felt the time had come for him to start making big contributions and not pretty 40s. The next innings at Headingley was one of his best. He and Ashwell batted us into a winning position and he went on to get 175 and he played unbelievably well.

“That for me was the watershed. He didn’t like what we said to him but he clearly took it on board and he wanted to prove us wrong at Headingley and he did it. Since then, he has come of age unbelievably well.”

The Proteas had the day off yesterday and will get back into high intensity mode today.

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