Zulu pays back faith

Neil Manthorp – 05/11/2001

There is nothing a professional cricketer hates more than inconsistent selectors who are prone to making rash or rushed decisions.

When a provincial cricketer is selected to the national side he is done so on the basis of his form in at least half a dozen matches and often a year or two of consistent form.

Why, then, do cricket supporters (and some selectors) expect a cricketer to perform to his best in virtually every single match he plays? Worse – why do some people start calling for a player to be dropped after three modest matches?

Although we may only whisper it for fear of causing him to become an even more withdrawn and private person, the truth is that some people had begun to question Lance Klusener’s Test match credentials.

In case you have forgotten just how modest Zulu’s form has been with the bat, let me remind you that he had scored 110 runs at an average of 12.2 in his last 11 innings. His last half century (97) came against Sri Lanka eight Tests ago in January in Cape Town.

Whenever coach Graeme Ford was asked whether Klusener might be left out, he developed a facial expression not unlike the one you might use to gaze upon a drunken tramp staggering through a museum. Confusion, amusement, disgust and a little sympathy.

“Err, no,” Ford would reply. “No, that really isn’t an option…Lance is a match-winner. He’ll come right.”

Shaun Pollock, too, would feel he was being stripped of two players should Klusener ever be “rested”. His ability to bowl cut-price, cut-pace off-cutters and block up one end is a priceless commodity for a captain who can change the course of a match by drying up the flow of runs.

So when a proven match-winner is going through a bad patch, it is worth remembering the oldest sporting cliche of them all: Form is temporary, class is permanent.

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