One-day selection policy is flawed
The Black Caps did the seemingly impossible by beating the Proteas in the one-day international series. Immense credit must go to the New Zealand team for turning their fortunes around on the current South African tour. They were under the cosh during the test series and were dominated completely in every respect by South Africa.
Before the start of the one-day series the most loyal New Zealand supporters were hoping to win one of the games in the three-match series. That would have been considered a good outcome for this group of players. They surprised not only their own supporters but indeed the cricketing world by beating South Africa in their own backyard.
New Zealand made the sensible decision before the one-day series to revert to type as far as selection was concerned and include a number of allrounders in their team. They also brought back experienced one-day players. There were no superstars in the team but the Kiwis got their fighting spirit back. They scrapped well during the first two matches and managed to outplay South Africa in every discipline.
I am sure that South African coach Gary Kirsten will be both disappointed and devastated by two poor performances during the first two ODIs. Kirsten inherited a successful test team. As far as test cricket is concerned he has maintained the standard and in some ways enhanced the quality of the team.
He was signed by Cricket South Africa on the back of winning the World Cup with the Indian team. The hope was that Kirsten would turn the South African ODI and T20 teams into ICC trophy winners. Judging by the World T20 in Sri Lanka and the one-day matches played recently, the Proteas are a long way off producing World Cup winning teams. Kirsten’s legacy as a coach with the Proteas will more than likely rest with results achieved in the knockout formats of ICC tournaments.
Clearly after the latest setback a number of things have to change. The selection policy for one is flawed. Priority is given to test cricket which is fair enough. South Africa without fail plays the best available players in test matches all the time. The test group has developed into a formidable combination because of this.
The opposite is true in 50-over as well as T20 cricket. In these formats the best team virtually never plays. The problem with that is that results are inconsistent. Both one-day and T20 combinations are all over the place so there is little chance of either combination gelling into a dynamic and successful unit.
Players do get injured and will have to be rested from time to time but if the Proteas are serious about competing in the shorter versions of the game, they will have to approach selection more professionally and scientifically in an attempt to create a winning habit.
On the batting front in Paarl during the first ODI the Proteas failed to assess conditions when they batted first. They were caught up in being over-attacking initially and then super-defensive during the middle part of the innings.
The batting during the second ODI in Kimberley cracked under pressure. The five run-outs were an indication of that. After pacing the run-chase superbly for a large part of the innings the batsmen panicked, lost their way and surrendered the advantage to an average but highly motivated Kiwi attack.
During both matches the bowling in the early phases with the new ball was good but then again the South African attack had difficulties during the middle part of the innings as well as the death period. Fielding was well below par particularly during the second match in Kimberley.
The last one day match against the Black Caps is now academic. With the Champions Trophy in England just around the corner, there is plenty of food for thought for the brains trust in the South African group. Hopefully it is enough of a priority for them to come up with better strategies against Pakistan in March. Pakistan will present a formidable challenge.