Former Proteas spinner PAT SYMCOX says South Africa must limit their media interactions during the Australian tour and let their performances do the talking.
South Africa resume rivalries with Australia in Perth on Sunday for the first time since the two sides squared off in the infamous Test series in South Africa in March/April. It may be a different format, but the Proteas are going to encounter the same level of hostility. I foresee there being plenty of needle during the three-match ODI series and one-off T20I because of what’s transpired in the recent past.
Australia is a tough place to play cricket and, if you are going to go there with some young, inexperienced players, you don’t want to get hammered to such a point that you start to lose confidence within your team. There are enough players in the current set-up who should understand that. However, it is a concern that the Proteas have started their tour in the worst possible way due to a four-wicket defeat to an inexperienced Prime Minister’s XI in a warm-up game earlier this week.
Ottis Gibson probably has his preferred batting lineup in mind, but he still needs to slot in a No 6 batsman and an all-rounder, with those positions probably still up for grabs. The Proteas are far from the finished product in the 50-over format and, of late, I don’t think our batting has lit itself up in any shape or form. However, to be fair, the Aussies are also not the complete article. At the moment, Australia are building an ODI team. They are still without key players in the form of Steve Smith and David Warner, who are serving international bans for their involvement in Sandpapergate.
Warner is still making headlines after walking off mid-innings in a recent Sydney grade game owing to ‘hurtful’ comments from an opposing player. Warner can be grateful he didn’t play in the 1990s because he would have spent plenty of time sitting in the change room. I believe he needs to man up or go and play tiddlywinks.
Cricketers of old must feel seriously let down by the current lot. I can’t imagine Shane Warne leaving the field because someone chirped him. And I remember when we faced Australia in Sydney in 1997 in the opening World Series ODI – golf balls, glass bottles and even pieces of chicken were tossed from the stands near where I was fielding on the third-man boundary.
Hopefully, a change of coach will get Australia’s cricket culture back on track. Michael Hussey’s piece on the issue struck a chord with me. It’s about as good a piece of writing since William Shakespeare. It is summed up quite magnificently and pertains not only to cricket but to life itself.
I played against Justin Langer, who replaced Darren Lehmann, on a number of occasions during my career. There has been a change of strategy and they have realigned their values since the ball-tampering debacle. He was a hardworking cricketer and I have no doubt he will also be a hardworking coach. He sets a high standard and will want to win the series because you don’t want to lose to South Africa at home as coach of Australia. He will be demanding a lot from his charges, so the Proteas must be up for it.
South Africa versus Australia in Australia is a big number and the media will jump on the series. However, the South Africans will be best served doing their talking on the field rather than off it. It’s advisable to only let Proteas coach Gibson and captain Faf du Plessis interact with the media and, for the rest, it’s best to keep them out of that space and really focus hard on defeating the Australians.
There will be plenty of talk around the series and my advice to the Proteas team at large is to keep quiet, say next to nothing away from the field and don’t let inexperienced players get involved in media matters. They must stay out of that business and under the radar so as to get the upper hand.
PAT SYMCOX COLUMNS
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