Not a case for the head doctor

The unpalatable truth about South Africa’s successive, nail-biting losses at the Wanderers and Newlands is that too many players lacked the skill to perform under pressure rather than the mental capacity to do so.

Frankly, it has become boring to blame their brains rather than their ability. They are not ‘chokers’ – but we use that label sometimes because it’s so much easier than admitting that they’re not as good as we would like to think they are.

Make no mistake, every member of the Proteas squad is an exceptionally talented cricketer and they all deserve their place on the ‘plane to India, but they are not imbued with a ‘right’ to be the best, or even better than the players from the other competing nations.

Fortunately, the talent in the world’s game has concertinaed and the Proteas are right there in the mix. There are no outstanding teams anymore and there are no favourites for the World Cup. South Africa made a howler out of the run chase at the Wanderers but don’t forget that India, too, were dreadful in being dismissed for just 190.

South Africa were poor in scoring 220 at Newlands but India came perilously close to cocking up the run chase. Two close matches both went to India but there was little to choose between their ineptitude for most of the time.

If they adopt the attitude of “lose some, win some” and rely and the wheel of fortune turning in their favour, however, they will have no chance. They desperately need to address the frailties in their game – notably the fielding. Individual moments of brilliance might change the course of the match but only if the core base is solid. The reason that spectacular catches and run outs haven’t made a difference in the last two games is that catches have been dropped in both of them and run out chances have been squandered.

The Proteas are firmly in the middle of the pack, not at the back of it. And certainly not at the front. To break away from the bunch the young players are going to have to stop believing their own PR and recognise that they have a lot of improving to do.

Off the field they would do well to remember that winning the hearts of their supporters involves a lot more than organising an hour’s autograph signing session in Port Elizabeth. If ‘team policy’ is for players to be ‘protected’ from the media (and therefore their fans) more than they are made available, then nothing will have changed for the last 15 years. And neither will the results in all probability.

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