JOHANNESBURG – South Africa lost a home Test series for the first time in two years and for the first time to an Asian team. Here are five reasons why:
The superficial critics out there – you know them, they go “he’s crap and should be dropped”, without offering any kind of reasons why (insert Proteas batsman’s name here) is “crap” just that he is – don’t like this one, but the pitches being so heavily in favour of the fast bowlers in the last couple of seasons have played a significant role in damaging the confidence of SA’s batsmen.
Yes, the pitches for the two Tests against Sri Lanka were fine and Faf du Plessis was right, the batting from both teams in Port Elizabeth – until that match-winning partnership from Kusal Mendis and Ochada Fernando – was horrendous but from SA’s point of view it is a carryover from playing on difficult pitches at home for two seasons.
That being said, one would have expected international batsmen to be able to make the requisite adjustments. The Proteas haven’t. Is that down to the batting coach? Dale Benkenstein has overseen a period of steady decline as far as the Proteas’ batting is concerned.
Players making mistakes happen, but at the highest level those mistakes can’t be repeated, and that happened in the Sri Lanka series and the players have to be responsible for them especially individuals who have been part of the set up for a few years.
SA have made far too many errors when picking the final eleven. Think back to the second Test in Colombo last year when they selected just one frontline spinner. For this series they very arrogantly went with just the six frontline batsmen, when the batting is a major weakness with the team. You never need five bowlers and if you are picking five bowlers because you’re worried about the fitness of a couple of other starters, you’re doing selection wrong.
Ottis Gibson’s obsession with packing the starting team with as many seam bowlers as possible has led SA down this route and it has also undermined a very fine bowler in Keshav Maharaj in the process. What did Theunis de Bruyn and Zubayr Hamza do that was so wrong in that last Test against Pakistan? One of them should have played in both Tests against the Sri Lankans.
SA are a bad fielding team. They have been a bad fielding side this summer across the different formats and they have just been lucky that it hasn’t cost them a series before. They dropped catches in Sri Lanka’s second innings in Durban and while it didn’t directly impact on the outcome, it played a part. The ground fielding has been lethargic and the catching in general downright awful.
It speaks to a team lacking concentration – perhaps too many are worried about their batting, or they reckon the bowling is so good that they will make another chance. Whatever the reason, it needs fixing and it needs to come from within as far as the players are concerned.
Players and coaches don’t admit to this. They talk about preparing the same way they always do and speaking the right language that they always speak, etc. But in this series SA didn’t not respect Sri Lanka. They read and believed all the pre-series stuff about their camp being in disarray – the Proteas read it and believed it and reckoned there was no way Sri Lanka would be focused enough to win a series, especially as they had been on the road since Christmas.
They thought they could just pitch up and win, and that attitude spread through the coaching staff, the selectors, right up the administrative corridors of Cricket SA. And now all of them, have been embarrassed.