Food for thought
When we assess the performance of the Proteas in the shorter versions of the game this summer there remains significant food for thought.
In T20 cricket a young and experimental Proteas combination played four, won two and lost two. In the ODI matches statistics tell a similar story. Eight matches were played. The win-loss record is also fifty per cent with four wins and four losses.
The focus now is on the fifty-over version of the game with the ICC Champions Trophy around the corner. This is the one ICC event that South Africa has manged to win -- the very first one back in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 1998. The upcoming tournament may well be the last Champions Trophy, so it will be fitting if the Proteas win the last one as well.
There are no favourites to win this competition. One day form has been patchy around the world and with the competition taking place in the UK, conditions even things up considerably. The Proteas find themselves arguably in the slightly stronger group. They share the group with India, Pakistan and the West Indies. The other group comprises Sri Lanka, England, Australia and New Zealand.
With the above in mind, without being negative or critical, I feel compelled to play devil’s advocate in analysing the South African strategy as far as selection is concerned going into the tournament. Throughout the summer the selection policy, until very recently, was one of experimentation. The idea was to expose different players to the international arena in the hope that the Proteas would be able to field a different team with younger players at the tournament.
The question is: did the strategy produce players outside of the normal group that the selectors will play in the upcoming ICC event? The answer is probably not. The likes of Colin Ingram, Farhaan Behardien, David Miller and Quinton de Kock had their moments but not enough of them to force the hand of the selectors and find a permanent position in a final ODI eleven. The one player who did was Ryan McLaren.
What does this tell us? In a nutshell the selectors will go back to the same combination that has played in World Cups and T20 events over the years. The team that will take the field in the UK will look something like this; Amla, Smith, Kallis, De Villiers, Du Plessis, Duminy, Peterson, McLaren, Steyn, Morkel and Tsotsobe.
The burning question is if this combination flattered to deceive in the past will it be any different this time around? Under English conditions the team looks strong. The one weakness will be pace in the field which will be lacking, but as far as overall one-day skills for England is concerned it looks pretty sound.
South Africa won’t be favoured to win this time, which is a good thing. Any team with the brilliance of the player of the moment, AB de Villiers, in its ranks has a fighting chance though. The Proteas have won this one before so the pressure isn’t as much as it would be for a World Cup. Will it happen a second time with this group of players? Your guess is as good as mine.