In the gameplan we trust, amen

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

PERFECTION is hard to find anywhere, let alone in a cricket team that has chalked up as chequered a past as South Africa’s in major tournaments.

Can their tournament history even be called chequered, which implies roughly equal measures of success and failure?

One success, at the 1998 Wills International Cup, doesn’t stack up against the six editions of the World Cup, five of the  Champions Trophy and six of the World T20 – 17 all told – in which South Africa have failed even to reach the final.

And it’s almost that time again, what with the Champions Trophy in England in June.

So, let’s not think of perfection just yet.

But that’s exactly what Neil McKenzie, South Africa’s batting consultant, thought of when he was asked whether planning for the tournament was on track.

That and trust. And gameplans.

“The thing is to try and get the perfect game and to get our gameplan in order,” McKenzie said.

“It doesn’t matter how much pressure or how much over-confidence you’re feeling – the biggest thing is to get that gameplan organised.

“So if you are on a high and you’ve beaten Sri Lanka or whoever, you need to make sure that the gameplan is exactly the same for the next day.

“We’re gearing up for the most perfect game. Whether that’s next week or in a semi-final or a final. The guys are always pushing to get that perfect game going.

“We trust in the gameplan; that’s what’s going to get us to the perfect game and the success that goes with it.

“That guys trust the gameplan and that’s all you can do.

“It’s about trusting that gameplan – being able to play a ball, whether it’s in a club game or the final of a World Cup.”

That’s four mentions of perfection, three of trust and six of gameplans. We think we get his drift.

Following the first match of the one-day series against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park on Saturday, McKenzie and the rest of South Africa’s management team have four more ODIs against the Lankans, five in New Zealand and three in England to get the team where they want them for the Champions Trophy.

What did head coach Russell Domingo hope would be settled in those 12 matches?

“The top six are already established,” Domingo said. “It’s just about trying to find the new-ball partners, and the allrounders at seven and eight.

“Hopefully these next couple of weeks will give us more clarity on that. We’ve got an understanding but hopefully those spots can give us more clarity.”

Can South Africans feel assured that something like the perfection of a trophy is a realistic expectation?

“The brand of cricket we’re playing and the honesty in the group puts us in a really good space,” McKenzie said.

Good. There are more than a few unclaimed spaces on South Africa’s chequerboard.

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