South Africa should play like the World No 1 team
It's always easy to dwell on the 'what might have been' factor after a game is over, but the South African cricket team's sheer hesitancy to press for a win against India in the opening Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Sunday was astounding
No team in the history of Test cricket has chased 458 for a win and South Africa ended the drawn Test eight runs short of their target.
Was it a thriller of a game? Yes, but only till the start of the final overs of the game because the hosts did not give cricket lovers the impression that they wanted to win in those closing stages of the Test.
Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn, who according to South Africa skipper Graeme Smith were the ones who decided what’s best for the team, just did not go for it.
Smith’s post-match utterances gave people the impression that he is a passive leader, leaving important decisions like going for a win or shutting shop to his No 8 and No 9 batsmen.
While both these late order batsmen decided to throw in the towel, didn’t they think about the century efforts of Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers, who got South Africa so close to an epic win? Didn’t they need to remind themselves to play aggressive, fearless cricket to do justice to their No 1 Test team status?
At one stage South Africa needed 16 runs off 18 balls to win.
The same Steyn was full of bravado when it came to talking up his side’s chances to demolish India at the Wanderers where his team didn’t think the visitors would have a chance. What happened now?
Even at the risk of displeasing some of their supporters in case they lost, Smith’s team should have displayed the winning mentality of a top-ranked team.
This was the best time to show the true meaning of gutsy cricket. The stands were empty in Johannesburg. Playing to win would have been the best way to ensure Kingsmead in Durban attracted more crowds than Johannesburg.
After all, South Africa needs more funds in their coffers.
And if that need is fulfilled, they don’t have to be so dependent and tolerant towards the BCCI, who the world likes to call bullies.