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No excuses, time to fight back

This was written just a few hours out from the start of the T20 series against Sri Lanka, and it was a moment to reflect on what has been a terrible couple of weeks.

There’s no hiding the fact that it’s been an incredibly disappointing and frustrating ODI series loss to Sri Lanka. We are under no illusions as to how much we’ve let down the fans at home and how angry some of them must be.

We’re aware of the criticism in South Africa, which we deserve, and now we just want to put things right. We know that if we play badly we’re going to get abused, and if we play well we’ll get the credit. That’s how it works.

There will be no excuses in this column – instead some thoughts on where I think we went wrong.

Firstly, I acknowledge my own poor form, and I think it’s the lowest point of my international career. I’ve fallen way short of the standards I’ve set for myself.

All I can do now is keep fighting, which is the message I’ve given to my Blue Label T20 squad mates. We’re a proud sporting nation and even though we talk about the ‘process’, it really is all about winning.

There’s no point wallowing in self-pity and moaning about how badly we’ve done – we’ve got to come out fighting, find some form and restore pride. You go through moments like this in professional sport and this is where your character is tested.

With regards the ODI series, I think we under-estimated just how difficult it is to win here in conditions that we aren’t familiar with.

As I said in a previous column, the conditions in India are low and slow, and we’ve become accustomed to those, whereas here in Sri Lanka the bounce is more variable and the ball actually spins more.

What was clear was that once a partnership developed, then batting became easier. However, for new guys coming to the wicket it was very difficult and that was just one of the areas where we were very poor.

Another area of concern was the fact that so many of us were below par, whereas there’s usually a couple of guys who stand up. I haven’t seen this team experience that before.

Also, I think we missed the experience of Dale Steyn in our bowling and one of the areas of concern was the number of extras that were given away.

Being without our best bowler made a huge difference, and I think Sri Lanka would have felt it if they were without Lasith Malinga or Kumar Sangakkara. It was the same with Hash missing the first three games – that experience and quality you just can’t replace.

You may wonder how one approaches things when you’re in poor form. Firstly, it’s important to stay positive and you just can’t start doubting yourself.

You need to stay focused on what’s worked for you in the past. No-one becomes a bad player overnight, and often you just need a bit of good luck to get you going again.

Luck does play its part – when I got to 23 in the fourth game I felt really good, but then got out to a stumping when I thought I was in. Sometimes those things go your way, but usually not when you’re out of form. That’s when luck usually goes against you.

Off the field, not much to report.The guys are spending most of the time in the hotel. I really enjoyed being in Kandy, which wasn’t as humid as Colombo. I really felt for our bowlers in Colombo!

My focus now is this T20 series and it’s another challenge. Sri Lanka are ranked number one in the world in this format of the game, but we’re not going to be kicked while we’re down.

We’re going to come out fighting, and we need to put Sri Lanka under pressure. That will breed confidence in our team, because the Sri Lankans haven’t been under pressure much the past two weeks.

They’ve put us under pressure and applied the killer touch when needed.

That’s where we need to get to.

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