Team cohesiveness is the secret weapon responsible for the Proteas’ immaculate run of form.
In the past, the Proteas have always had a habit of relying on one or two superstars to get them over the line. Consistent performances from top dogs such as Shaun Pollock, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, and more recently Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla have seen players build legend status due to standout performances.
The inevitable departure of these legends and older players has given birth to a new style and approach to the way the Proteas play their cricket and the youthful exuberance in the squad has awoken South Africa’s new secret weapon.
We have seen batsmen, who are usually explosive, play a supportive role to their in-form teammate at the other end of the crease. There has also been an improvement in the building of partnerships throughout the order. Our bowling attack has done the same, with one bowler putting in the hard yards and building up the pressure at one end, while the strike bowler takes the wickets. Faf du Plessis has been instrumental in ensuring this during his stint as captain, by showing confidence in all of his players.
Cricket has been overlooked as a team sport because of the strong individualist component that is part of the game. Sports psychologists have sat down with players speaking about how they deal with pressure and how they focus on bringing out their best performances.
The new-look SA side has a different approach. Du Plessis has mentioned the teamwork within the squad as the main reason for their current run of form and his team showed evidence of this when they supported their captain in a video that went viral on social media after his ball-tampering allegations.
The first Test in Perth showed another example of ‘Ubuntu’ within the squad, and it’s this togetherness that the Aussies couldn’t handle. After a below-par batting performance in SA’s first innings, the Proteas bowling attack dominated Australia in their innings. Every bowler played their part and this rubbed off on our batsman in their second innings as SA posted 540. Another excellent bowling performance in the Aussies’ second innings took SA to a 177-run victory. Even though Steyn and De Villiers were out injured, contributions from everyone throughout the series handed SA the 2-1 win.
Cricket is just as much a team sport as any other. If the Proteas can continue to express belief and confidence in their teammate’s abilities, it will bring out top performances from everyone. A dip in form from a top player or two will not matter then, as SA will sweep away opponents as a unit and take the pressure off their counted-upon superstars, freeing them up to do what they do best.
There’s an unbelievable respect among the players in the side despite language barriers, cultural, religious and age differences, it is a true spectacle to watch them perform on the field of play despite that.
Team cohesiveness is essential in bringing out the best in players when the chips are down. Coaches should focus on breeding this old-school method for success, throughout the squad. Unity will be the key to winning major trophies and SA’s hunt to the top of the Test rankings. Strengthening the cohesiveness in the squad should be the main focus as the Proteas look to gain world domination across all formats.