“We got a little predictable with the change-ups”
There was something Rassie van der Dussen said after the second T20 International against England in Durban that has stuck with me ever since.
“I think we got a little predictable with the change-ups. If we’d landed our yorkers more, then the change-ups would become more effective,” Van der Dussen said after South Africa had allowed England to score over 200 runs in that match. The home team lost the game narrowly.
It’s not the technical stuff Van der Dussen mentioned – landing yorkers – that stuck with me, but the first sentence: “We got a little predictable with the change-ups.”
Being predictable suggests an inability to think on one’s feet.
The opposition knows what’s coming, so they are prepared for it and can respond.
At the Wanderers last Friday night, that predictability was there again.
Dale Steyn dismissed David Warner in the first over of the match with a ball that jumped off a reasonably good length which the batsman top edged to fine leg.
Suddenly the short ball became the ‘go to’ ball for the South Africans. The Australians figured that out, sat on the back foot, and then got a bit of extra help from the home team, whose bowlers delivered the short ball badly, with plenty of width.
The players never adjusted, within the over or within the PowerPlay.
The T20 format is a demanding one, both physically and mentally. It’s in the latter department that the players are failing – they’re not thinking on their feet.
Listening to the likes Mark Boucher, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Charl Langeveldt over the last few weeks has made that clearer and was then reinforced by Van der Dussen, who was on the field in the middle of the action at Kingsmead.
Players coming into the national team are being taught things, it feels like, they should have learned at provincial and franchise level.
Langeveldt, talking about the bowling last week, mentioned how concerned he was watching domestic cricket and the fact that “games aren’t like they used to be”. By which he meant players – and for him specifically, bowlers – weren’t being put under pressure enough and thus lacked the ability to think for themselves when a plan needed changing.
There is no room for that kind of thing at international level.
There’s been a school of thought running through the game here that cricketers in this country need to be spoon-fed. It certainly appears that way watching the players who’ve donned Proteas gear this summer.
Everyone has to accept the road back to being a successful team once again will be a long and arduous one for the Proteas.
But gosh, if players are going to need help thinking on their feet then that road will be even longer and more arduous.