y2k_rambo >> y2k_rambo's Blogs >> End of SA's innocence

Posted by y2k_rambo at 3/12/2021 7:33:10 PM       
    South Africa's greatest strengths on their triumphant tour of Australia were unity and dignity. Those two qualities are disappearing faster than the shine off a new ball. Their unity started to go when the selectors cut Neil McKenzie and Morne Morkel, which clearly displeased the captain Graeme Smith. Their dignity took a hit when those same selectors gave Ashwell Prince the leadership and took it off him less than a day later.

    A team that had been run quietly, calmly and successfully by Arthur and Smith for the past few years has started to whiff of internal tension. The new convenor of selectors Mike Procter has already annoyed Arthur by plumping for JP Duminy over Prince for this home series. After the Durban loss, which confirmed South Africa's first series defeat since mid-2006, Procter and Smith sat next to each other to talk about the decisions, but it was about as united as they would get.

    Smith spoke first and voiced his disappointment that the same XI that he had taken into all five Tests against Australia this season was about to be ripped apart. It was natural that Smith was despondent - he had a broken hand and his team had just lost the series - but his body language took an even more negative turn when Procter began to speak.

    As Procter explained his rationale for leaving out McKenzie and Morkel, Smith slumped back in his chair, turned his head away and looked off into the distance. It was like he didn't want to listen. Procter's opening statement, which he directed to Smith and Arthur, who wasn't present, gave a strong hint that his panel's choices had been unpopular with the team.

    A permanent part of the Test top order since the start of 2008, McKenzie had a strong calendar year and finished it with 1073 runs at 53.65. He was a key man on the tours of India and England but his form tailed away and he managed only one half-century against Australia.

    Losing McKenzie will be a major change in the South African structure. Hugely popular in the dressing room for his humour and affability, McKenzie also has a sharp cricketing brain and was the acting captain on the field when Smith had a broken hand during the Sydney Test. That he was not given the same responsibility in Durban was telling. At 33, it will be difficult for him to come back.

    He and Smith will be replaced at the top of the order by Prince, who is not a regular opener, and the debutant Imraan Khan. It's a risky strategy to play two unfamiliar openers but Procter was adamant that the middle order could not be altered. Hashim Amla, he said, didn't like opening.

    But how does the preference of Amla, a supremely talented batsman who has failed to fulfil his promise in the five Tests against Australia, earn more weight than that of Prince, the man who was supposed to lead? Amla opened in Smith's absence at Kingsmead and showed no discomfort with the new ball as he scored 43.

    It's just another example of confused logic, as was the decision to make Jacques Kallis captain for Cape Town after initially handing the job to Prince. They're the kind of moves that do little to inspire confidence.

    How must McKenzie feel to have his Test career all but ended by a panel that reverses its decisions so quickly? What must the supporters be thinking about the rapid promotion and demotion of Prince? And how nervous will the to-ing and fro-ing make the rest of the squad?

    South Africa must rediscover their unity and their dignity. The players and fans deserve better than to lose the innocence of the innocent climb.

Reader Comments
Posted by thirdump at 3/13/2009 11:24:32 AM         

    Yes the tussle between captain and selectors is not a new one . Terry Jenner called the selectors a "bunch of jokers". Now I am not sure whether Procter deserves that compliment, but my heart goes out to Smith who strove to build a united team , full of differences earlier, what with the South African racial policies .
    Only time can tell the impact of this confusion in South Africa. Hope a good team does not disintegrate.

Posted by y2k_rambo at 3/15/2009 4:34:06 PM         

    u said it right thirdump.Its ultimately these foul plays which affects the team.

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