So what if South Africa didn’t make the semi-finals of the World Twenty20?

2012-10-06 00:00

HOW fickle supposed cricket followers can be. Shock, horror and condemnation abound after the Proteas’ dismal show at the business end of the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka and how quickly the joys and efforts of beating England 2-0 in the three- Test series in July/August are forgotten.

It’s sad how the nation becomes caught up in the swipe and slog world of 20-over cricket and yes, while it may be entertaining and a healthy moneyspinner, those who truly understand the roots of the great game of cricket see it as that — a quick fix with no value in the sport’s history books or statistics.

So what if we failed to get to the semi-finals of the tournament? The 20-over format relies on luck more than skill and it’s a case of who dares wins most of the time. Do we really care about winning a biff-bash trophy with many players who are nowhere to be seen when whites are pulled on and “proper” cricket played? No doubt, it’s great to represent your country, but any cricketer worth his salt wants to represent his country in the real deal — Test matches — where achievements are recorded on honours boards and tradition, hand in hand with history, defines the great from the good.

A few weeks ago, the Proteas were heroes after their accomplishments in England. Now, the side are seen as weak and useless, with captain AB de Villiers spending his time timidly apologising to all and sundry. He is a fine player and perhaps does not deserve the limited overs captaincy on his shoulders. A once proud, fierce warrior with bat in hand is now a jittery, nervous wreck, unsure of himself and half the player he was because he now has to play for himself, the criticising public and the, at times ignorant, sensationalist media. Any mistake he makes is quickly jumped upon and this tournament now has people questioning his captaincy, his tactics, his keeping and, heaven forbid, why he is even in the team.

Pathetic judgments of “drop De Villiers, he is useless” have already started their rounds in the pub and around the braai, words from the mouths of total ignoramuses who use sport as an excuse to tank it up and be brave for a while.

Granted, to be able to compete at T20 level, we need more of a game­plan and to find players who specialise in certain departments, but let’s remember, the real cricket is best left to those blessed with the sublime talent to endure five days of intense struggle.

While an approachable, genial bloke who is and was one of South Africa’s most admirable servants on the pitch, where is Gary Kirsten in the whole T20 debacle? The players are being harpooned from all sides, yet the man who steers the ship, plots its course, is nowhere to be seen or heard. Without coming across too harshly, is it worth asking whether his true coaching skills have been exposed? Working with the Tendulkars, Dravids, Laxmans, Dhonis and Sehwags of the world can’t be too difficult as there is not much to actually coach them. They are more about management and they have been in the game long enough to know which end of a bat to hold and how to use it.

Suddenly, Kirsten is now surrounded by players not as experienced, players wanting some solid coaching advice on where they fit in the team dynamics, what their role should be. For the serious cricket supporter, our T20 set-up looks just that — rudderless, clueless and certainly undeserving of the number one ranking in the world. Is the coach actually planning strategies with the players or is he allowing them to be like lambs to the slaughter, as seen in this recent debacle?

Be that as it may, let’s return to the fundamentals of real cricket. In that regard, we are where we belong, at the top of the pile, showing the rest of the cricket playing world that when it comes to the real deal of the game, we know how to play, we have the players to fight and we don’t take a step back for anyone.

Stop the moaning about the T20 performance. It’s done, it’s over and all the comments are not going to change anything.

We competed, we came off second best and so be it.

No one, no matter how good he or she is, wins all the time. It’s the science of competing that sometimes, the other side might just be that much better.

Let’s get the adrenaline going ahead of the tour to Australia, where last time we triumphed and Graeme Smith endeared himself to even the Australians by coming out to bat at Sydney with his arm and wrist in a cast. That’s what real cricket is about, the heroes, the warriors, the mighty men who have their finest hour for their country and who are prepared to fight to the death to uphold their pride, their country and the wonderful game of cricket.

Roll on the tour to Australia. Let’s get behind our lads and enjoy cricket as it should be played, not a bish-bash lottery where the luckiest side wins.

Pure and simple, Test cricket is what the game is about. Forget the rest. That’s entertainment.

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