They did that before the 1999 World Cup, too, but there were various tensions and stresses, insignificant in their own right, but which produced cause for concern. Personality differences, arguments about tactics and personnel – even about the ‘quota’. It was SA’s strongest team back then, but backroom innuendo played a destablising role.
Now it’s hard to spot a crack, and when you do the management pull it further apart for you to look in even deeper. Albie Morkel ranks amongst the world’s best match-winning batsmen, but is his bowling a problem…?
“Yes,” says Mickey Arthur. “We have been trying to define his role for a year or more. Is he a frontline all-rounder or is he a batsman who can bowl a few overs? It’s very important to the balance of the side that he shows his hand, one way or the other.”
To be honest, this is hard to comprehend. Not the logic, but the honesty of a national coach and his truth! What is there to speculate about? Either Morkel bats at six and bowls as the “sixth or seventh” bowler, or he “bats at seven or eight and bowls – properly,” says Arthur.
It’s all a bit hard to digest. A bit too decent, honest and unguarded. Fortunately, the Lord’s stewards are on hand to remind us of the real world where other coaches and captains treat their followers with utter disdain and lie blatantly about form, fitness and friendships. So what. They suffer in the end – always have and always will.
But there are more important things to worry about. Like how to cover this tournament in London with an Underground strike on! A press conference with the indefatigably cheerful Johan Botha (‘Botes’ to his mates) was called at the thoroughly decent time of 9.30am.
With no underground trains running, and a complete blank on buses, this necessitated a 45 minute power walk from my old friend’s coach in his one-bed apartment. And a power walk back. Then I had to pack my bags and get to Hammersmith to collect my budget hire car to get to Nottingham for the first Super Eight game against England.
Four and a half hours later, and with just as much sweat and angst, we arrived – me and the car, that is – a little over two hours after the Proteas landed in their luxury coach which had been standing outside the team hotel when we arrived for the interview.
They are a very fine team, with genuine leadership, good, sincere people in the squad and a decent understanding of the importance of the role they play in many thousands of lives. They may not realise what a complete pain in the arese it is trying to hang on to their coat-tails on tour, but then that’s not their concern.
Goodness knows how we’re going to chase them back from Nottingham, to London.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.