Proteas must go back to basics

Pat Symcox (Supplied)
Pat Symcox (Supplied)

Sometimes, as with many other things in life, one has to accept that what has happened cannot be changed. The sooner one moves on mentally, the better.

AB de Villiers and his entire squad will feel that they let themselves and many others down in their 130-run loss against India. They know deep down that it would have been a critical game to have won and that all the criticism directed towards them for the way they played is justifiable. They know they are better than what they delivered.

However, I believe the problem is that it has now created even more pressure on the Proteas, at a time when the environment is stressful enough. As a leader, De Villiers will need to dig deep and find a way to keep the faith in his team and get as many as possible to do the same. Confidence comes with momentum and that intangible asset was shattered for Russell Domingo’s men over a few hours of madness in front of a massive crowd. Those who have walked the same road in the past will understand the psychology and tell you that dismissing the entire saga isn't as easy as it may sound.

If De Villiers and Domingo are brutally honest with themselves, they will admit that India outplayed them in every facet, and were mentally as well as tactically more prepared. I felt we looked ragged and rusty and not too dissimilar to a rabbit caught in the headlights. Granted, when a key bowler like Vernon Philander leaves the field and cannot bowl his quota of overs it creates all kinds of mayhem, and plugging the hole is a tough ask. But that’s the nature of the game and others need to step up to the task.

Our bowling unit appears great on paper, but if we take a hard look at it, one can see that it’s reliant on the spin of Imran Tahir in the middle overs and Dale Steyn to strike up front. Morne Morkel hasn't found his length consistently in any of the games so far and his role can never be to bowl tight. He has to take wickets or he becomes a liability.

So much has been said and written about young Wayne Parnell, that I feel desperately sorry for him. Firstly, he didn't select himself and secondly, I'm sure he is trying his guts out to overcome his current form.

However, truth be told he is technically so poor at the moment that I’m wondering what Allan Donald has been doing with him. The basics of swinging the ball as he used to do are no longer in evidence and I’ve observed that his collapsed delivery stride leads to inconsistency in his line and length. By now, he must feel so mentally scarred that a comeback will be nothing short of a miracle.

The Proteas’ much-touted and talked about top six batting lineup remains a powerful one but only if they find form and confidence. To date in both matches, the players would all be the first ones to admit that they just haven't delivered on the expectation.

In my opinion, Quinton de Kock needs time at the crease and looks confused as to what his role is at the moment. Coming off a time away from the game through injury is easier dealt with when one has experience, and he doesn't have years of that quality. He needs someone to help him with his own game plan. I believe he should just play with more freedom and relax a little. He seems too tight in his hands and shoulders.

On the flipside, Faf du Plessis spent enough time at the crease against India to have regained some confidence. Meanwhile, De Villiers, David Miller and JP Duminy all have form to call upon, as does Hashim Amla for that matter.

However, I believe that it’s now all about understanding that despite the above players’ ability and form, nothing is more important than staying in once they have got through the initial phase of their innings. Don't leave it to someone else. Place a higher value on your wicket than what you think, is what needs to be said. And another important message is – don’t leave anything to chance even when running between the wickets.

Let's leave the Indian debacle right there and focus on the West Indies match on Friday.

The Proteas have mauled the islanders in recent times, with the ODI series win still fresh in the memory. While I believe it’s certainly something to draw on, in Chris Gayle we know all too well that the West Indies possess a player who can create havoc. When he fires, it makes life easier for the rest of their batting lineup and they know that too.

For me, therein lies their pressure point. Create the pressure on Gayle right up front and force him to make the play and take risks.

And let us not for a moment forget how the Windies bowlers felt when bowling to our batsmen just a few weeks ago. Don't give them soft wickets. Be patient and bat deep.

I believe the talismanic De Villiers will need to lead boldly for the next few games. The tournament is now on knife’s edge and the Proteas need to perform the basics well.

De Villiers is a man of exceptional talent that, at times, borders on genius. However, it’s now a true test of his leadership qualities and he has to front up. His senior players will back him to the hilt and I, for one, still have faith.

Former South Africa international Pat Symcox played at the 1996 Cricket World Cup, and is a self-proclaimed cricket fanatic, struggling golfer and addicted writer.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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