Concentration the biggest challenge

South Africa’s greatest challenge before and during the VB triangular series finals will be their ability to maintain concentration during a prevailing atmosphere of controversy, anxiety and anger.

The route to the finals taken by New Zealand abd Shaun Pollock’s team will be debated for some time to come but their presence will not be reversed now and it is crucial that they are not drawn into the arguments and recriminations.

Poor old Stephen Fleming has even come under fierce fire from his own country’s leading newspaper, the Herald, who described his decision to ‘give’ South Africa a bonus point as “cowardly” saying that he broke the first rule of the ICC’s Code of Conduct by not allowing the match to take it’s natural course and by influencing fellow players to underperform.

South Africa, too, have come under fire for not trying to win their final game against the home nation although the majority of criticism has been based more on the bitterness created by Australia’s failure to qualify for the finals than a constructive analysis of Pollock’s actions.

There has been an overwhelming feeling since the end of Sunday’s match in Perth and the team’s arrival in Melbourne on Monday evening that ‘common’ Australians have very, very little problem with what happened at all.

It’s a little unscientific to rely on a checkout clerk, an airline hostess and a taxi driver to guage public opinion, but this is a column not a science paper.

“Good luck – I hope you guys win, especially after the Test series,” we were told while signing our bills in Perth. “We’ve flown with the Australian team plenty of times,” said our all-blond, all-smiling hostess. “They seem so full of themselves – not like your team (who were sitting ahead of us in business class!).”

“They’re a bunch of arrogant tossers, mate,” said the driver, matter-of-factly on the way from the airport. “That Glenn McGrath’s got the biggest mouth in Australia, mate. You guys should clean up now…”

So there you have it. Hardly a cross section of society, but that’s what we’ve heard. Just as long as the criticism from the ‘experts’ is treated with a sufficiently large pinch of salt by Pollock and his team then they should be fine. By the way, Chris Cairns has declared himself “90 percent fit.” Hmmm…

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