Monday, December 18, 2006


Antagonised Africans


South Africans that is. Specifically, I refer to the likes of Nicky Boje and Graham Smith who seem to have arrived at a similar place of discontent, via different reasons, relating to the same man/group of men.

What rubbish is this, you ask? It is not rubbish it is the bleeding obvious.

The cracks in South Africa's elite cricket community were papered over the by the comprehensive demolition act of India during the ODI series. The results achieved in that series were as much due to the South African bowlers using conditions to their advantage, as it was to Indian batsmen deciding that things would sort themselves out, without any hard work or diligence.

Selection squabbles in post-Apartheid South African cricket have been fought rather publicly. Percy Sonn's last minute substitution of Justin Ontong for Jaques Rudolph in South Africa's tour of Australia in 05/06 is one such notable event that springs to mind. The latest selection scandal involved the forced non-selection of Andre Nel by Haroon Lorgat in the recently concluded ODI series against India, much to the chagrin on Graham Smith.

Yesterday, Nicky Boje slammed the selection panel and blamed them for forcing him to retire from international cricket. In a signal that there are simmering pockets of discontent within the national setup, Boje has warned that there could be a mass exodus of talent from South Africa (most probably to the benefit of England) if the communication lines between players and selectors are established and maintained. What he probably meant to say was that the selectors have no clue about what they are employed to do and there should be an overhaul of the whole selection committee.

Boje's woes were undoubtedly compounded by the fact that his captains, not only Smith, rarely had faith in his ability. If a captain does not believe a bowler has the ability to regularly take wickets, he is going to let the selectors know in very certain terms. Apparently, a similar situation dogged Indian left-arm spinner Murali Kartik.

Boje is not the only one with a chip on his shoulder. Graham Smith has apparently received tutelage from the Steve Waugh School of Captaincy and has tried to apply his Master's every instruction, mental disintegration included. Trouble, the technique works great when you're winning, however, it does have a habit of biting the perpetrator in the backside when he's losing.

Selection squabbles, personal poor form, an inconsistent Herschelle Gibbs, an unpatriotic Jaques Kallis and a regularly brittle middle order have transformed Smith from a big-talking private school-boy to a big-talking grumpy old man. He has lost his zing and his proclamations sound hollow. Maybe, just maybe, he needs Boje to make a comeback and take some wickets for him?

The sentiments floating around the current South African squad are in direct contrast to Team India, who seem to have welcomed Sourav Ganguly with open arms and everyone is getting along like a house on fire. All the meanwhile the Indian media is pulling its hair out, because the team just will not give it any juicy controversies to "report".

This all makes for a rather interesting series ahead. By no means am I presuming that India will win the first Test, although they should from their current position of strength. But, if they do win we could just be about to witness the unraveling of the South African machine. Graham Smith inclusive.


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