Team experiments need greater thought
Having watched the T20 match against Pakistan and the recent ODIs against New Zealand, it is clear that there is much work to be done by the Proteas in terms of getting the T20 and ODI teams sorted out.
That many of the players selected in any of those games didn’t truly represent their talent goes without saying, but the real issue is that the combination of players being tried is not at all what South Africa would go with into any tournaments. While it is unrealistic to expect that the Proteas’ best players will play each and every match on the schedule, it is worth noting the reasons for the success of the test match team and trying to apply the same sort of formula for the other formats.
In my opinion, along with talent, determination and hard work, the cornerstone of the Proteas’ success in the longest version of the game is the experience that the players in that side have. Over time we have seen even the best players in the side develop and add other dimensions to their game due to consistent selection and being comfortable with knowing that their places are not in danger. When new players have entered the fray, they have found it easier to settle and sometimes even to thrive because all around them is rock solid support in terms of experienced campaigners.
In stark contrast, the ODI and T20 teams have been unrecognisable due to the resting of the big names, which has meant that responsibility has been on one or two individuals to take the team to victory. In asking the less experienced players to sink or swim in an environment where all around them are youngsters trying to do exactly the same thing, the tough situations just seem that much tougher. It is important to get it right in terms of whom to rest and when, making sure that enough experience is picked in each side that turns out.
There also needs to be a consideration for the opposition at hand. In this case, it is no secret that Pakistan are a very good limited overs outfit and would give any side in the world a real run for their money. It follows therefore that the experiments have to be pretty smart ones if there is something to be attained from them. It is detrimental to the team and also the young guns trying to prove themselves if the team is annihilated as was the case at SuperSport Park during the only completed T20 match of the series.
When it comes to limited overs cricket, the rhetoric has kind of gone full circle from needing to leave out the established players as they are not suited to the shortest format to 'horses for courses' and now back to needing those experienced players again. Well, in my opinion, experience in whatever format has always been imperative and more so at times when there is a lot of decisions to be made as is required in the short versions of the game. It is key that those “horses” picked for a particular form of the game are placed in the best environment possible to be able to succeed.
All players would prefer to enter a side that is doing well rather than one that is struggling and, at the moment, the T20 team seems to be struggling along. In the upcoming five ODIs against Pakistan, one hopes that the various combinations that will take the field shall resemble the Proteas’ best ODI eleven. It is an opportunity to see how the team is going in one-day games before the Champions Trophy in England in June.
If not for any other reason, perhaps close to the best side should play for the sake of the fans that turn out in the hope of seeing the best Proteas team each time the show comes to their part of the country.