Before the start of the cricket test series against Australia, captain Graeme Smith stated that his team would do the talking on the field of play. This was in response to some of the media comments that the Australians had made in the build-up to the series.
The severe defeat that the South Africans suffered at the hands of the Australians in the 1st test raises the question of whether they will be able to do much talking on the field in the next two tests. The manner in which the team capitulated in the heat of battle must now be of much concern to the players. This loss may have caused significant emotional and mental damage. Only time will tell the extent of the wounds that this defeat has caused.
The South African cricket team are in a vulnerable, unstable state at the moment – this may be a watershed test series for them.
In the past, the South African team has been able to recover from their pattern of having a poor start in a series. This time, it may be one too many of those poor starts since it is unlikely that this Australian team will offer them any respite from the bombardment on both the batting and bowling fronts. There will be no place to hide during the battle.
I have doubts about whether the South Africans will be able to recover from this 1st test defeat. A 3-0 whitewash is a serious possibility, if the team is unable to respond quick enough to the situation they find themselves in.
On the batting front, most of the batsmen seemed afraid, uncomfortable and ill equipped to deal with the pace and bounce of Johnson. It was interesting to see how one opponent was able to unsettle and cause terror in a group. Much courage will be needed from the batsmen.
The bowlers seemed ineffective and lethargic. The attack was totally dominated by the Australian batsmen, with three centuries being scored against them. Greater intensity and consistency will be required from the bowlers.
A 3-0 whitewash will usher in a harsh winter for the South African test team.
Seasons can change dramatically for teams. The England cricket team is a case in point. Everything seemed rosy at the start of their Ashes tour, only for powerful downward vortexes to destroy the holistic fabric of the team. The casualties suffered by the English team highlighted the severity of a harsh, unexpected winter. It usually takes a couple of years for a team to recover from such a traumatic event.
All teams go through processes of decay – no team can escape it. As part of the decay, the older experienced players decide to retire, get dropped or get injured. They are no longer up for the fight. Years of battle have made them weary. Some start feeling afraid and vulnerable, but cannot show it. This is a very difficult period in the natural phases of a team’s evolution. It can be likened to the start of a winter, where there is very little growth.
Seasons come and go and fortunately spring follows winter. But usually spring does not follow quick enough since the re-building phase that is necessary in a team just before the onset of a winter is invariably delayed since management tends to hold onto the ‘old’ for too long, thus prolonging the severity and length of the winter period that the team will have to endure.
On a recent visit to the USA I experienced extreme winter temperatures below -20C that were caused by, what meteorologists termed, an ‘Arctic/Polar Vortex’. The frozen water feature outside the house was testament to the severity of the cold. As South Africans, we are seldom faced with such extreme weather conditions.