TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IN an audio file not quite three minutes long that emerged from St Kitts after SA completed their preparations for their triseries match against West Indies in St Kitts on Wednesday, AB de Villiers used the word “team” five times and spoke of “unit” twice.
Clearly, SA’s captain is not into individualism these days.
“They’ve got world class players all round but we’re just going to have to top that and have a better team performance,” De Villiers said. “That’s the world that stands out for me – us operating as a team which was something we didn’t do well in the last game.”
Ah yes, that last game. SA were 210/3 in the 38th over chasing 289 to beat Australia in St Kitts on Saturday. Sounds good. But 10 overs later they were all out for 252. That’s a crash of 7/42, the last five of them for 16.
De Villiers admitted “there was a lot of doom and gloom after the last game, which we felt we should have won”.
Hell yes. But SA had a prize to keep their eye on on Wednesday: “If we get good performance out of the way we’ll still find ourselves at the top of the log. We’ve worked on a lot of things over the past few days, spoken about a lot of things, and I’m expecting a big performance from the boys.”
The West Indians, the only team among the three who have not lost for a second time, will be emboldened by their win over the Aussies on Monday. But could one of the most inconsistent sides in the game make difficult opponents for two consecutive games?
“They’re not as unpredictable as they used to be,” De Villiers said. “They’ve become a really good ODI unit. They seem to know what they’re doing – they’ve got world class players both in the batting line-up and the bowling line-up.
“They’re a force to be reckoned with, especially in their home conditions. They know what to expect.”
From the South Africans, we should expect change. And, of course, a better collective display.
“I’m a big believer, in a series like this, where there are three different venues, that you’ve got to chop and change the whole time; try not to be predictable but at the same time try and be consistent with your performances.
“We’ve let ourselves down once or twice in the performance department but I’ve really enjoyed the way we’ve changed the balance of the side.
“All the guys who came in performed really well individually but as a team we haven’t clicked yet. That will be our focus – really operating together as a team, gelling nicely together, and I believe we’ll play those pressure situations much better.”
That goes twice for SA’s batsmen, who have let the side down in all three of their matches. Their sole win, over Australia in Guyana last Tuesday, was engineered by the other half of the equation.
“Our bowling department’s been really good,” De Villiers said. “We’ve been naughty with a few disciplinary issues on the field when it comes to no-balls and wides, and in the field there’ve been a few fumbles and a couple of dropped catches.
“But the bowling skills have been as good as they’ve been in the last two or three years. I’ve seen guys really nailing their yorkers. When I’ve asked for bouncers, really good aggressive bouncers have been bowled.
“Skill-wise everyone who has come in has got it right. There’s been just one or two no-balls too many. Maybe it’s just a bit of a lack of that unit that I’ve been talking about, playing together as a team.”
Got it, team?