Doing it the hard way

There is salt for the gaping wounds of the loss against the West Indies and it is the unpalatable but unavoidable truth that it was never that close.

Three runs and a mile, they are the same thing. The match was lost much, much earlier than the final dramatic overs.

Mark Boucher spoke for the whole team when he said they wanted to “do it the hard way” before the tournament began. He was not, of course, referring to losing the opening game.

He meant the team were not afraid of any eventuality, that they were prepared to face the hardships and difficulties that inevitably accompany a tournament lasting over six weeks and that they expected no favours.

Now is the first, and possibly most testing, of those difficult times.

The team spent three days getting to know each other in the Drakensburg, trying to understand how they might react under pressure and what made them tick. Riding mountain bikes and building rafts may go some way towards that objective but it is nothing to the challenge they faced last night and will face over the next few days.

The dangers of brooding anger and simmering recrimination must be confronted and handled. And then the relevant questions must be asked.

Shaun Pollock asked for the press to be positive and constructive before the tournament began and that is the least he deserves after just one defeat – it is the least the team deserves.

They must be reminded again and again over the coming days that one loss is not terminal. The World Cup is still very much alive. (Remember what a shower the Australians looked at the beginning of the 1999 tournament.)

But a similar request can be made from the media and the public to the captain, coach and selectors. Be honest and do not be afraid to be ruthless.

If the obvious elements of the team that failed so palpably on Sunday night do so again, action must be taken – however ruthless or heartless that action may look or feel.

If the campaign is to founder they must not give their supporters the chance to say: “They were afraid of change. They did not face the truth.”

But what a game, hey?!


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