Too much experimentation
The form slump in England by the Proteas in the one-day series is not a major surprise. Two factors contributed to the losses that South Africa suffered at the hands of an average English one-day combination.
The first is fatigue. This has been a long tour for some of the players. The focal point of the tour was the test series. The magnificent victory by the Proteas in the test matches was a fine achievement and took a lot of emotional energy out of the team.
The danger was always going to be that coming off such a high would lead to disappointment at some point during the ODI series. Maintaining an optimum level of motivation after the test series was always going to be a challenge. At the moment it looks like some of the players are ready to finish the tour and get home.
The second issue is more concerning. There is no doubt that the test team is far stronger than the South African one-day combination. The reason for this is pretty simple. The test team is an established unit. Every player in the team knows their role and has a specific job description that they fulfil very well. The balance of the team is sound with seven specialist batsmen, four quick bowlers and a wrist spinner. It doesn’t get better than that.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the one-day combination. To be fair, the Proteas haven’t played their best available team in the series – Jacques Kallis makes a big difference to the balance of the team, and Morne Morkel is a factor as well, so when they both play, things look better.
The problem is that too much experimentation is taking place during key series. It is one thing to experiment against lesser teams but against the premier nations it doesn’t work too well. The argument may be that these games are not that important and that the capability of fringe players needs to be tested against strong opposition in order to establish whether they are good enough at top level.
The next World Cup is a long way away so I guess the powers that be are starting to search for a combination that is likely to be at that prestigious tournament in a few years' time. Planning for the future is certainly a good idea, but I believe that creating a winning culture is also important. The Proteas haven’t struggled to win test matches since readmission. They have struggled to win ICC one-day events. That is why it is important to build confidence by winning one-day series such as this one against England.
A win at Trent Bridge on Wednesday will be a boost for morale ahead of the three T20 matches that conclude the tour. The T20 series against England is important, because it is the last chance for the selectors to find the right combination for the World T20 tournament that starts in three weeks' time.
England are the defending champions in the T20 format so a win over them will be good for the confidence of the team going into the tournament. It will also mean that the Proteas are on the right track as far as the team combination is concerned. A strong finish to the tour in the shortest format of the game has suddenly become critical.
Lets hope for the same passion, commitment and confidence that we saw during the test matches.