Former Proteas spinner PAT SYMCOX says South Africa must take advantage of Australia’s struggles and secure an ODI series whitewash to enhance their World Cup credentials.
South Africa must be congratulated on a top start to the three-match ODI series against Australia. An outstanding bowling performance perfectly set up the six-wicket victory in Perth earlier in the week.
There was inspiration from veteran Dale Steyn right up front which set the bar for all. It’s fantastic news that Steyn is fit and firing, with the Proteas’ three-prong pace attack set to prove a real handful going forward.
It all went pear-shaped for Australia with the bat and they looked like rabbits caught in the headlights. You have to ask what the thought process in the Australian change room is at the moment. Surely it should be all about absorbing the pressure instead of playing million dollar shots.
Faf du Plessis had an outstanding game as captain. His gut feel calls were spot-on but, having said that, the Proteas weren’t put under any pressure whatsoever. When you are in that space it’s quite easy to do pretty well. At no stage did Australia look like they were going to dominate any part of play whether from a batting, bowling or fielding front.
I wasn’t surprised by the home side’s weak showing and sixth consecutive ODI loss to South Africa, because Australian cricket is in dire straits at the moment. It is a mess in the land of the Kangaroo and used sandpaper, with the resignation of Cricket Australia board member Mark Taylor yet another body blow to the embattled organisation.
There are deep consequences from Sanderpapergate and I can only relate it to the issues we went through as a country when we endured the Hansie Cronjé match-fixing crisis. It was tough on us as we were building towards the 2003 Cricket World Cup and there was plenty of pressure on that team to hold it together. It wasn’t an easy time. That is where Australia finds itself right now.
It’s not an overnight fix and the odd ODI victory won’t solve the deep-rooted problems within Australian cricket. You can clearly see the Australians are not sure what type of personality to adopt. Head coach Justin Langer is an introverted guy and he is relatively conservative, so will demand that style from his players. It’s the polar opposite to what the Australian public is used to. They are accustomed to characters like Shane Warne speaking their mind, so it’s a huge adjustment.
It’s all very well saying to the players, ‘Go out and express yourself,’ but captain Aaron Finch is inexperienced and is not going to make a noise and Langer is still trying to find his feet as the coach.
It sometimes happens when the pendulum swings too much one way and then the other and it has got to find the middle ground. I understand why Australia want to reset their culture after the ball-tampering debacle, but they might be taking it a step too far. However, from a South African perspective, it’s important that the Proteas put the Australians, who have lost 17 of their last 19 ODIs, to the sword.
I’m hoping that the Proteas claim a series whitewash, which would do them wonders in terms of momentum. It would also galvanise support back home and make a statement with the World Cup in the near future.
As such, I would urge the selectors not to chop and change.
South Africa need to start getting a unit together and create a bottleneck system whereby it becomes difficult to break into the team. For argument’s sake, the Proteas mustn’t drop Andile Phehlukwayo and give Chris Morris a run. Until Phehlukwayo plays badly, Morris should not feature.
As the team grows, you start knowing what the captain wants of you and how things hang together. What I don’t want is for the coaching staff and selectors to start confusing player roles. The priority must be on consistency of selection and winning the series 3-0 so as to scar the Australians mentally.
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