Two Tests in Darwin and Triangular invitations

There are some adjustments to be made now that we are the sixth best team in the world, and it’s not all bad.

Perhaps the best thing about being sixth best out of ten is that we can stop obsessing about Australia. When you’re sixth in the world you hardly have the right to claim your match against the number one is anything special.

Also, we’ll probably get to see some different places now. If Australia stick to form and treat South Africa like they did the previous occupants of the number six berth, then next years tour of that country will be moved from December and January to July.

It will also be downgraded from three Tests to two and will be played in Darwin and Cairns whose citizens have as much interest in cricket as they do in Italian opera.

Perhaps we’ll also be in the fortunate position of going to the Caribbean and actually giving the West Indies a decent game. And there should be no shortage of invitations to compete in Triangular tournaments involving higher ranked teams who need some warm-up material before they meet in the final.

Alternatively, perhaps we can use our lowly status to re examine our approach to every facet of the game in the country, from the under-15 level to the national team. And the national team can start that process on Friday with the first of five one-dayers against Sri Lanka.

Eric Simons has promised that there will be changes in both personell and strategy, and that is exciting news. It is hard to believe South Africa have ever started a one-day series as firmer underdogs than they are now, so in many ways the pressure is off.

As hard as it may to accept, we must look for positives from this series beyond results. Results may well be very hard to come by.

There are a number of theories currently under discussion in Sri Lanka but the most popular is this: South Africa’s most likely match-winners have under-utilized for far too long. Conventional thinking has produced predictable batting line-ups and bowling options. There hasn’t been enough creative thinking and option-taking.

It’s anyone’s guess whether Lance Klusener may be pushed up to number three but this is the country that conceived the pinch-hitter and if it won’t here then it’s unlikely to work anywhere else.

There has also been talk of batting the other two ‘big guns’, Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock, at five and six with JP Duminy making his international debut at number seven from where he will either be required to rotate the strike to keep a big hitter on strike for the last couple of overs or rebuild the innings in the event that all the ‘gambles’ at the top of the order.

As miserable as it may be to see our world ranking, we can at least look forward to the freedom of playing style that it may provide. And the good news is that we could be back at number two in less than a year if we win all our series between now and May 2005. But it’s a very big ‘if’.

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