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A better structure is needed

AB de Villiers was visibly distressed after South Africa conceded the one day series here in Sri Lanka with a poor performance in the fourth one-day international at the Pallekele Stadium in Kandy.

The Proteas are slipping down the world ODI rankings at an alarming rate. The problems surrounding our one-day cricket are ongoing. Gary Kirsten unfortunately left the one-day team in a precarious position after his premature departure. These problems have to be confronted and solved in a hurry. We have just witnessed Australian cricket collapse over the last 18 months and the last thing the Proteas need is to follow in the footsteps of the Aussies.

De Villiers needs more support from the people around him. In fact, as captain, he should insist on accountability from the individuals responsible for the different facets of the game.

Lets look at the issue of selection. In my view convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson should have been on this tour from the beginning to oversee the new coaching team in this regard. Selection has been far too inconsistent. A clear example is the opening batting partnership. The opening batsmen are key positions in any team and we have seen no fewer than nine different opening partnerships experimented with over the last 21 matches. This is hardly the way to lay a stable foundation.

On the bowling front, in four matches the bowlers delivered well in excess of fifty wides. This is a major problem and one that cannot be allowed to continue. As the bowling coach, Allan Donald has to be accountable for this. Similarly Robin Peterson is struggling for form with the ball and the man on the spot is Claude Henderson whose task it is to work with the spin bowlers.

A further problem is the fact that other than Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, the batsmen in the team are all fairly new to the one-day game. The majority of the middle order are trying to establish themselves in trying circumstances, yet there is no batting specialist in the coaching set-up for them to consult with regarding the way to construct an innings under preserve on the sub-continent.

De Villiers and Amla have enough on their plate worrying about scoring the necessary runs so they can't be entrusted with the responsibility of developing the other batsmen off the field as well. It is almost impossible to fill this void unless one has walked the walk and understands the pressure of the situation.

The one positive on the coaching front is Greg King, the fitness consultant. He worked with the Indian team as well as the Chennai Super Kings. He is cricket-specific and very good to have around. Unfortunately he is there only on a temporary basis. In the absence of a fielding coach, King can take over some of those responsibilities.

Hence coach Russell Domingo and his assistant Adrian Birrell have to come up with a more refined structure whereby De Villiers and the rest of the players are operating in an environment designed for excellence.

The perception of the team in some quarters is that they are not good enough to compete at this level. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that is needed is for a structure to be put in place within which the players can take the responsibility to develop their skills to the next level in order to compete.

The talent is there – maybe not to the extent to be No 1 in the world, but certainly to test the best teams. Hopefully this happens soon. Losing is never fun especially when it can be avoided.

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