Embracing change

An awful lot is being made of Mark Boucher’s omission from the Proteas’ line-up – too much, probably. It’s not as if Nelson Mandela has been snubbed at a celebration of the country’s cultural diversity!

A brilliant sportsman has been left out of a team because he hasn’t been performing at his best and, for tactical reasons, a different formation is being tried. It’s happened before and, dare I said, to even better cricketers than Boucher.

When I first heard a head coach use the phrase ‘the best team doesn’t necessarily contain the best XI / XV players” I was an impressionable teenager and consequently mortified with indignation that a coach could deliberately leave out players whom he knew were more talented than others whom he had picked.

Gradually but surely, as the years have passed, I have now come around to accepting that coaching philosophy – about 95% anyway. (I cannot shake the nagging feeling that the very best coaches should be able to mould the personalities and styles of the ALL the best players into the team. But maybe that is asking too much.)

Anyway, while Boucher’s ‘keeping remains as reliable as ever, he is either being ‘worked out’ as a hard-hitting lower order batsman, he is going through a period of frustration (let’s not say ‘out of form) or, heaven forbid, he is beginning to lose some of his powers – notably his power.

Bob Woolmer used to say in the mid-1990s when he was redefining the way the Proteas approached one-day cricket that he wanted seven bowlers and nine batsmen. The current line-up offers seven bowling options and eight batsmen – no doubt both Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn would be offended by that calculation as both have the ability to contribute with the bat at numbers nine and ten.

Word has it that some of the senior players think that Corrie van Zyl may in the midst of a controlled ‘panic’ in the aftermath of an embarrassingly poor ICC T20 tournament, evidenced by the fact that he presided over an unprecedented six-hour net and practise session just a week ago.

International cricketers regard a three-hour training and net session as a ‘full’ workout and four as ‘long’, something they may only do a couple of times on tour. But six!

Van Zyl is not a panicker. He may be strict and occasionally a rigid disciplinarian, but he has rarely had his equilibrium disturbed or his ability to think clearly under pressure compromised. If he is behaving in a peculiar and unfamiliar manner, there will be a reason.

Perhaps the players need to spend more time thinking about what that reason might be rather than being distracted by the extra work. And if Van Zyl is also seriously exploring the possibility of opening a new chapter in South African cricket, with new faces and fresh energy, then the only way for the ‘old guard’ to rise to that challenge and delay the dawn of a new era is to raise their own games – yet again.

Because moaning about it will be like water off a duck’s back to men like Van Zyl and new convenor Andrew Hudson.

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