The wheel always turns

The Barmy Army, camped in the grandstand seats directly beneath the teams changing rooms, sang ‘You’re going to lose to Zimbabwe, you’re going to lose to Zimbabwe…’ There was little reaction from above them.

England’s players, perhaps, were trying not to gloat and South Africa’s were facing the reality of a series defeat – the first against England on these shores for 40 years.

The journalist who’s car was crushed by a tree blown over in the car park during the storm that ravaged the ground at the close of play on the third day was provided with plenty of perspective on what really matters in life 24 hours earlier but the impending series defeat still nagged like a throbbing tooth ache.

The form of AB de Villiers has been exciting enough to provide a genuine distraction – even consolation – for the way the match and series have played out and Andre Nel’s six-wicket haul provided another dose of medicine for flagging spirits despite tasting a little like cod liver oil at the times when the venom on which he bases his game spilled beyond the bounds of decency.

Herschelle Gibbs’ return to form at the Wanderers was another reason to believe the climb back to international competitiveness was just around the corner – although Test matches are won by bowlers, in general, not batsmen. Incidentally, he became the sixth greatest loser in the game’s history during that match – and not because he was fined R25,000 for his late night drinking indiscretion during the Newlands Test.

His 259 runs in a losing cause has been ‘bettered’ by only five other players (see graph below).

As Graeme Smith and Ray Jennings know all too well, losing is as much a part of their jobs as winning. It would be wrong to ‘accept’ losing in a resigned, deflated manner and the pain the team feels in their moments of defeat should be remembered and used as a motivational tool for improvement.

But also, as Mark Boucher learnt to his cost after the mauling in Sri Lanka six months ago, there is a time for honest sincerity without anger and recrimination, and now is that time.

Shouting and finger-pointing will get this team nowhere at the moment. During the series it could be regarded as a normal and justified reaction to soft-hearted cricket and a lack of guts and application, but when the series is over and everybody feels the pain equally, it is time to show empathy and a sense of proportion and perspective.

Decency, respect and trust are needed. Administrators with a grudge or a suspicion need to be honest enough to to talk to the squad members they feel are working to a different plan. But even more importantly, the team need to know they have the backing and support of both the back room staff and the head office suits.

Perhaps everyone could use the example set by the Northerns Cricket Union’s chief executive officer, Elise Lombard.

Northerns had carefully and rightly erected a large sign in the media parking area stating that cars were parked at owner’s risk (although they did provide security). So when the tree was blown on to the car, that was that. Or so it seemed.

But Lombard is cut from a different cloth to most. She took responsibility where she didn’t need to, she trusted a person she didn’t need to, and she selflessly offered her assistance where others would have shrugged their shoulders.

One of the union’s older ‘pool’ cars, normally shared by junior players, was made available to the transportless journalist in question (who, incidentally, has spent the Test match writing the match reports for Supercricket).

So when Ken Borland leaves the stadium at the end of the fifth day he will be able to drive away safe in the knowledge that his further coverage of the tour will continue without the cost of a hire car to wreck his plans as badly as the tree wrecked his car.

It was a gesture of the most sincere and generous kind. The greater fraternity (and sorority in Elize’s case) of South African cricket needs more such care. Thank you Elize..

case) of South African cricket needs more such care. Thank you Elize..

Highest run scorers in losing test match:

BC Lara 351 (221 & 130) WI v SL Colombo-SSC Feb-01
A Flower 341 (142 & 199*) Zim v SA Harare Feb-01
H Sutcliffe 303 (176 & 127) Eng v Aus Melbourne 1924/25
CL Walcott 265 (155 & 110) WI v Aus Kingston 1954/55
VS Hazare 261 (116 & 145) Ind v Aus Adelaide 1947/48
HH Gibbs 259 (161 & 98) SA v Eng Johannesburg May-04
MH Mankad 256 (72 & 184) Ind v Eng Lord’s 1952
A Flower 253 (183* & 70) Zim v Ind Delhi Jan-00
SM Gavaskar 248 (111 & 137) Ind v Pak Karachi 1978/79
VT Trumper 242 (214* & 28) Aus v SA Adelaide Nov-10
RT Ponting 242 (242 & 0) Aus v India Adelaide Apr-03

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