Leading Edge: Poms will be proof of Protea pudding (and can India stop cheating already)

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

THE likeable but lacklustre Lankans have been lashed. Next South Africa will probably nuke the nice but nowhere men from New Zealand.

Is it too early to get excited about what would appear to be a test team locked and loaded to surpass the achievements of even Graeme Smith’s side, who went to No. 1 in August 2012 and stayed there, with minimal interruption, until July 2014?

Or should South Africans wait until after the England tour to give their verdict on where this team is at?

Short answer: They should.

Long answer: Hell yes, they should.

For one thing, with India tilting their home conditions laughably far in their favour and then scheduling a heap of test matches at home no-one else is going to be the No. 1 team for a long time.

Until India realise the folly of what amounts to cheating, the rankings should start at No. 2.

Perhaps the Indians will see sense if they arrive in South Africa next summer and find that every pitch has been prepared to arm even the most military of medium pacers to knock every drop of arrogance – and moisturiser – out of Virat Kohli.

Just a thought. Use it; don’t use it.

For another thing, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As well as South Africa have played since extricating themselves from the ambush they stumbled into on those despicable Indian pitches in November 2015, and then crashed and burned against England at home, the truth is they have a long way to go before they can be cleared for take-off to the top of the pile.

Yes, there is much to admire in the way they have played under Faf du Plessis.

Yes, sometimes it’s difficult to remember that much the same team would have struggled to bat their way out of a stale chapati in Mohali, Nagpur or Delhi.

Yes, a new generation of stars has replaced those who have faded into retirement.

But there’s a lot to be said for staying in the now, for concerning ourselves with what is happening rather than what has happened or what we would prefer to happen.

And the glass half-empty version of the now is, for a start, that two of South Africa’s major bowlers – Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel – have been out for months with injuries, as has the finest batsman of the age, AB de Villiers.

Whether any of those players has a significant future in test cricket is another debate for another time, but it will be had sooner rather than later.

The domestic structures are heavily subsidised by Cricket South Africa (CSA) and have dwindled to a shadow of the relevance they held when winning the first-class title meant something. They are under strain that isn’t going to be relieved for years. That’s before we throw the match-fixing dragon into the ring.

Then there’s the dragon whose name is not to be spoken without being spat on: Kolpak.

There’s a lot, if you feel like it, to be unhappy about.

Thing is, why would you feel like it? Especially when these past few months have given South Africans so many reasons to be hopeful; cheerful even.

That’s a lawyer’s question. The answer is that, no matter how well South Africa play, they won’t please all of the people all of the time.

CSA’s chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, this week said something about complaints drying up when the national team is winning.

Clearly he doesn’t indulge the idiots in the swamplands of social media, and well done to him for that.

Those of us who do wade into the muck – partly out of a commitment to free speech, partly because we like to keep our idiots where we can see them – are not as fortunate.

Most of them are sad, old, white men hung up on race. So the fact that the team is winning is much less important than the fact that it is darker.

Will they ever understand that both of those facts are not only equally important but connected?

Only answer: Hell no.

  

  

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