Proteas Blog

Posted on/at 12:20 PM by The Cricket Corollary

 My first ICC experience  


The Champions Trophy is my first experience of an ICC world tournament and I can promise you it has felt very different, and very special from the moment the squad gathered. In a bilateral series against another country there is inevitably a sense of familiarity that comes after three or four games. You only need to prepare once for the bowlers you will be facing and the batsmen you will be bowling to. Here we face three very different teams in the group stage, although – to use an old cliché - we really are taking it one game at a time!
Even the veterans of seven or eight of these ICC tournaments say that this time it feels more like a ‘sprint’ than ever. We could, in theory, be out of the tournament after three days if we lose our first two games. Some teams won’t even have played a match by then! It will feel like a 100 metre sprinter being disqualified for making a false start.
But that sort of tension is good, it keeps you on your toes and mentally sharp. We cannot afford a false start and everybody knows that. It would be going too far to say we are relaxed, but we are all confident in our own ability and in the skills of all team mates in the squad. Nobody has any doubts.
Although I started as a ‘reserve’ in the squad I’m looking forward to making an impact. I really enjoyed my run in the ODI side last season against Australia and I was fortunate to make a couple of match-winning contributions, so I know I can do it. I love the big stage as much as anybody and, with luck, I’ll be able to take the chance offered to me by Herschelle’s injury.
It’s never a happy time watching a team mate lose his place tp injury, especially when they are as keen and determined as Herschelle is, but there isn’t a single player in the squad who hasn’t suffered that fate or taken advantage of it, so we all accept it as part of the game.
Sri Lanka pose a unique threat in world cricket because of the extreme unorthodoxy of the ‘three Ms’- Malinga, Murali and Mendis. Batsmen have virtually no chance against all three of them on first sighting, but the element of surprise has gradually been worn away now and we all have experience of facing them. It doesn’t necessarily get any easier, but at least we now know what to expect. Well, most of the time…!
There is huge excitement in the Proteas squad but definitely no nervous tension, not of the negative variety anyway. If people say we are the favourites then that must mean we are quite good. And we’d rather people thought we were quite good than quite bad!

 The future of the ICC champions trophy  

Some of the talk concerning the status and future of the ICC Champions Trophy has amused me. The people who have said and written that its future is in jeopardy because of a lack of interest clearly haven’t been talking to the players.
When the top eight teams in the world get together to play for a trophy, you can call it whatever you like and play over as many overs as you like, you won’t be able to compromise the effort and determination of a cricketers representing their countries.
Personally I think the balance is perfect between the three ICC world tournaments. The T20 World Championship and the Champions Trophy are both ‘sprints’ which will only enhance the reputation of the 50-over World Cup which is a longer tournament requiring sustained form and endurance for over a month.
There are four Majors in tennis and golf – why can’t cricket have three? When all the major cricket nations gather in one place the level of competition and interest is bound to intensify. If cricket has a problem with too many fixtures, then they are the tours and games which Graeme Smith earlier this week called the ‘meaningless’ ones, not the pinnacle of international competition.
ICC events are very special occasions for the players. I’ll never forget the 1992 World Cup when I was just a boy but mingling with the likes of Imran Khan and Ian Botham, it was an incredible experience. The same applies today when I see the looks on the faces of young players when the walk past Sachin Tendulkar or Jacques Kallis in the lobby of the hotel. Try telling them that the Champions Trophy isn’t special or important!
I’m not saying that the balance between ODIs and T20 fixtures is perfect, or that it won’t change – it probably will. But, for all the power of television, sponsors and advertisers, and the influence of the people who pay money to watch, I am quite certain that one-dayers will never disappear. The players enjoy the contest too much and, provided there is no ‘overkill’ of the 50-over game, crowds will continue to enjoy them, too. But in moderation. I suspect that administrators in England are beginning to realise that a seven match ODI series after the Ashes was completely excessive. Less is more!
Nobody will be surprised that I’m tipping South Africa to win. But it’s not just about the quality in their squad, it’s also that I can see too many things holding back the other teams! The West Indies are fearfully under strength, England and Australia will be too tired to keep their eyes open, Pakistan can be slow starters and, as I said, this tournament is a sprint. India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand all look well balanced and will obviously be hard to beat – but I’m banking on home ground advantage to help the Proteas cross the line first on October 5th.

SA's First Game


We have faced greater adversity than this before so, although we’re very disappointed, we know we can still get things back on track with victories over New Zealand and England in our last two group games.
We were very tentative with the ball, especially the first 20 overs. We didn’t do the basics well and, despite preparing as well as we possibly could, the lack of hard match practice in the last three months showed quite clearly. It’s no excuse – we did as much as we could to be match-ready but there’s no substitute for the real thing.
Ajantha Mendis obviously had a huge impact once Jacques and me had tried to lay the platform for what was always going to be a tough run chase. He’s very different to most spinners. It was the first time we’ve seen him live – and it’s very different seeing a guy like him during a video analysis session and actually facing him. He bowled well. Very well. He has some unique skills and should be applauded and celebrated for that.
Our final two games are now ‘must-win’ matches which brings a different sort of pressure but, once again, not something we are unfamiliar with. We all know that the best way to succeed is to relax and trust yourself and your team mates. It doesn’t do any good worrying and stressing about the result. It’s the next delivery that counts.
At the same time it’s vital that we are honest with ourselves as individuals and as a team and face up to why it went wrong against Sri Lanka and how we can improve. It’s a very quick turnaround between games and but we will be doing everything in our power to ensure we do ourselves justice on Thursday.
Despite the overall success of the last 18 months there have been low moments when we have underperformed and let ourselves down. One of the key ingredients to bouncing back from those days is to acknowledge your mistakes and accept the responsibility for putting them right.
We started that process straight after the game and will discuss it further on Wednesday morning. Then we will do the ‘practical’ in the nets at Centurion in the afternoon.
Having said all that, it would be wrong to concentrate purely on our shortcomings without paying proper credit to Sri Lanka. Tillekeratne Dilshan made a brilliant century and the innings by Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene were world class.
We know we are capable of performing a lot better and we are certainly capable of beating both New Zealand and England if we play to our potential, but we have to get ourselves to that level very quickly.


Cricket chick said...

Gosh Smith looks radically overweight judging by that photo. When will he ever get into the gym and work off his puppy fat?

The Cricket Corollary said...

That is actually a old pic I had hanging around. Apparently he has lost a lot of weight. I thought that his clothes weren't so tight-fitting anymore untill I realised that they have different T20 & ODI uniforms. :D

Anonymous said...

He always looks fat, I don't think it matters much. And those saying that he won't perform once he gets another girlfriend are on the money. He has a bad day all-round. If he keeps declining I think they will have to make a call and install Kallis as captain. Smith will retire if this happens.

Purna said...

Where did you get these? Very interesting!

The Cricket Corollary said...