Work in progress or a mire of confusion?
What a difference a format makes. Pakistan were abysmal in the test series and the team that was defeated and completely deflated by South Africa was a far cry from the highly competent and professional unit that destroyed the South African combination during the only T20 match of the series at SuperSport Park.
Gone were the technical deficiencies and the lack of confidence that were so prevalent during the test series. Those inept performances were replaced by a structured, highly skilled and competent T20 performance. There is no doubt that the Pakistani players are good at the shortest version of the game.
They have a number of match-winners in this format. They also play without fear. Their combination has all the bases covered and it is easy to see why they have done so well at international level in T20 cricket.
The opposite sadly is true for South Africa. Is the South African effort at this version of the game a work in progress or is it indeed a mire of confusion and uncertainty?
Again due to the rotation policy a number of players who one would assume would normally play in the T20 team weren't considered and therefore the best possible combination didn't take the field.
Sooner or later coach Gary Kirsten will have to take ownership of the T20 format. That is, of course, if this version of the game is regarded as a priority. The fact that he has delegated responsibility for this part of the game doesn't send out a particularly good message as to the importance of this format.
There is nothing wrong with Kirsten having a break along with the other senior players at certain times during a busy season – other countries are allowing some of their head coaches to do the same. But when it comes to major tournaments, he will have to step up to the plate in both the T20 and the ODI format.
The hope was when he took over that he would turn South Africa into a World Cup winning team in both T20 and 50-over cricket. He inherited a very successful test team and has been able to take that combination from strength to strength. No one is questioning the magnificent efforts of the test team under his tutelage.
It will be good if he can achieve the same with the T20 and the ODI team. The biggest improvement needs to take place in these two formats. That is where the biggest heartbreak since South Africa's readmission to the international fold has occurred.
Good as the Proteas are in test cricket, which is the priority, there has to be an admission that as far as the other two versions are concerned, there is some way to go.
The only way to avoid further setbacks in these formats is to approach them with the same thought, passion and intensity with which the test format is approached.
I cannot believe that if the powers that be were to attach the same importance to the shorter versions of the game as they do to the longest version, that there wouldn't be an immediate improvement. There may not quite be the same success as we are seeing at test level but there certainly won't be the inconsistency we are seeing at the moment.
It is a case of doing justice to the abundant talent in this country in the limited-overs versions as well.