Proteas chief selector not getting carried away


Or at least in the Aussies’ case, their former selection chief after Rod Marsh became the first notable casualty of the home team’s catastrophic start to the 2016-17 summer. Marsh quit his post on Wednesday in the wake of the innings and 80-run defeat to South Africa at the Bellerive Oval that surrendered the series to the Proteas and has since been replaced with Greg Chappell on an interim basis.

Marsh’s resignation was seemingly “my own decision”, but there’s no doubt the weight of five consecutive Tests defeats, coupled with 5-0 ODI whitewash in South Africa last month, was starting to weigh heavily on the 69-year-old former Test wicket-keeper.

Contrast that to Linda Zondi, who could not be happier with the lay of the land at the moment. South Africa have yet to lose match since the Caribbean ODI Triangular Series in July with notable Test series victories over New Zealand (home) and Australia (away) in addition to the ODI sweep of the Aussies at home.

Coupled with the fact that Cricket South Africa’s much-debated “aggressive transformation policy” is reaping the dividends through the stellar performances of the Black African players across all formats in this period, Zondi certainly had reason to smile when he met the small group of travelling South African media at the team hotel after the momentous victory at the Bellerive Oval.

The former KwaZulu-Natal wicket-keeper has, though, learnt very quickly that the wheel of cricket can turn very quickly and sympathised with his former adversary’s misery.

"One thing I have learned in this position as convener of selectors is that it's a thankless job. You have to understand the position you hold. Either way, there will be issues,” Zondi said.

“I don't want to get involved too much in the Australian selection but as long as we are happy where we are, I am comfortable. There will be hard times going forward. I'm happy with the team, the environment, the players and the way they have performed for us. It's excellent."

Zondi’s apprehension to stick the knife further into the Aussies is born from a place that he knows only to well too. It was only 12 months ago that South Africa were in a similar desperate position to their rivals after surrendering a 10-year away series record on the dustbowls of India before coming home to face a strong England team that benefitted from the Proteas’ mental scarring on the subcontinent.

Having to navigate through the minefield of injuries to key fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, a Test captaincy change from Hashim Amla to AB de Villiers, the poor batting form of senior players like JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis in addition to incoming players struggling to adapt to the demands of international cricket certainly made Zondi’s first summer in charge since taking over from Andrew Hudson a strenuous one.

But as they say in the classics, the sun does rise the next day and South Africa carefully plotted their plan back to the summit of Test cricket through a “bosberaad” prior to the New Zealand series in Durban back in July. The exact dialogue of what transpired there has yet to be publically conveyed, but the general discussion surrounded “the culture” of the Proteas moving forward and how they were going to achieve it.

A major component of this was obviously to get the players and staff to buy-in to the new philosophy and especially the fringe players around the squad.

Kyle Abbott, who was the Bellerive Oval hero with a match-haul of 9/118, certainly fitted the bill as a player that could feel like a yo-yo to the broader ideals. However, the new processes that have been put in place have certainly allowed the 29-year-old seamer to prosper like he recently has done in both the ODI and Test arenas recently.

“Everyone in the squad is in a good space, they know where they are standing. That’s nice and that’s all we can ask for as players. There will be disappointment when you don’t play but communication has been good. All 15 guys are in this. We are in a good space and I think our cricket is proving that,” Abbott said after his Hobart performance.

It has certainly helped that Zondi is acutely aware of the policies surrounding transformation within the national side and the sensitivities around how to best manage the process in trying to build a stronger Proteas team.

"The board makes policy, and our role is to implement those policies," Zondi said. "When we got to the stage where the policies were passed, we were in the position where the best represented South Africa, regardless of any target or colour. All the players deserve to be there and we've got young guys that are coming through to add to the senior squad."

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Proteas convener of selectors, Linda Zondi has learnt very quickly that the wheel of cricket can turn very quickly.

Original source: Proteas chief selector not getting carried away