It’s finally happening. The exodus costs another team dearly. It looks worse still when a top team loses to a rather lowly one, only making the latter look much better than it really is!
It is hard to imagine that a team that was on a nine match winning streak and looking to extend it against a weather worn England are suddenly finding themselves against the fresh faced hosts who are now looking at a clean sweep of the one day series. But South Africa has been hit hard and the only man not entirely surprised by the turn of events is their coach, Mickey Arthur.
Some of the comments he made would certainly called for his head in certain fanatical cricket playing countries. Arthur certainly thinks this present team has extended beyond its ‘best by’ date and that he was been planning to change it around so that South Africa can be a strong force come 2011 World Cup. This hiccup does not seem to disturb him that much because he knew this would be a tougher task than the Test series.
The reason South Africa stand to lose their number two spot in the world to England (who are climbing away from number six at the start of the series) is because of the number of players they have lost in the last one year. Arthur feels that the team has lost a good bowler up front and a bowler at the death. Shaun Pollock retired and Charl Langeveldt disappeared after refusing to play Andre Nel’s substitute only to comply with quota.
Additionally the absence of all-rounders has hit South Africa hard. While Albie Morkel is batting shoulder injury, permanent damage has been done with players like Johan van der Wath, Justin Kemp and Andrew Hall leaving to join the ICL. The form of Herschelle Gibbs and the seemingly growing speculation about Jacques Kallis have not helped South Africa’s cause either. Their belligerent skipper, Graeme Smith, is going to sit out for sometime till the Australian tour before his tennis elbow allows him to play.
It is hard to believe that England are the deserving number two. They have improved by leaps and bounds but perhaps a fairer event like the Champions Trophy would have assessed sides since the World Cup. England are cleaning up their act. Out go the ‘bits and pieces’ players who originally formed England’s one day line up for the better part of a decade and in come specialist players who are tidying up the loose ends. South Africa though are groping in the dark, and with deceit after their Test victory. One final game will not win the series; it could though just keep them at the number two spot, or just about.