Embedded with the Proteas
The last five weeks in England certainly were an outstanding experience. For myself and Sandile to be able to ride the wave first-hand with the South African cricket team as they progressed in their quest for number one test status was special.
We joined the squad right at the very start of their endeavour and travelled with them as they carefully and methodically plotted their ascent. We were pretty much embedded with them on a daily basis with camera and microphone at the ready to capture thoughts and strategy whenever we could.
We were permitted to get very close to the team and explore the personalities, and for that both Sandile and I would like to thank the South African team management, the coaches and the players for their support and co-operation.
Upon arriving back at my home base I have realised that the perspective we did get was extremely unique. We were able to observe and record exactly how the squad went about their business from close quarters on a daily basis. From breakfast to shut-down we were never too far away, careful to get the balance right between being an important conduit for the team while not imposing upon their private time.
After having such a privileged vantage point I have a couple of thoughts that are certainly worth sharing. My overall impression regarding this group that toured England is that the team culture really has altered quite dramatically from my previous experiences.
The South African cricket squad members are a mature bunch of guys who acknowledge responsibility. They reflect an attitude of calmness and purpose that has clearly galvanised the unit and added an element of serenity. I also got the impression that with this composed base in place they welcomed challenges and knew how to deal with them when confronted.
In case you were starting to think the squad has lost some snarl and scrap, I must point out that lurking nearby are always a couple of blokes who are known to ignite aggression when needed. Allan Donald is one who is on that pulse from the coaching bench and the skipper doesn’t do a bad impression either. The consequence is equilibrium. These guys exhibit a determined balance that encompasses drive and ambition, coupled with single-minded determination.
Gary Kirsten and his entire management team have succeeded in providing a high performance environment that promotes excellence. Importantly, this atmosphere allows each individual to prepare for the upcoming task in a mature and individualistic sense.
The unit values the word ‘trust’ enormously and ensures that no-one lets another down or compromises a teammate. One aspect that shocked me was the regular occurrence of optional practices the day before a test match. Before Lord’s for example, in what was to be a mammoth occasion, only five or six players opted for a training session and they were mainly the back-up boys.
Kirsten trusts the players to judge when they are ready and is adamant that they retain a hunger for success. The players in turn thrive on that attitude from their coach and deliver.
Their number one test status has not happened by accident. It is the result of a carefully structured long-term plan that encompasses all of the essential aspects of what is needed to succeed at an elite level.
Sandile’s rare change-room celebration visuals at Lord’s epitomised the culmination of effort from all. Him and I saw it all unfold up close during the English summer and brought it to your lounge-rooms. We hope you enjoyed the show.