As mentioned recently here, I’m not watching the IPL right now. Of late though I have had people tweeting me about what the various South African players are doing in the tournament, and every time the same question pops up – why can’t they do this when playing for the Proteas?
With this IPL being played in the aftermath of another failed Proteas ICC tournament effort, the ‘why can’t they do this when playing for the Proteas?’ question sure is a relevant one.
The answer is naturally very simple: in the less competitive environment of the IPL, they play their own games. When the stakes are raised at international level, they get lost in the situations, and succumb to the immense pressure that exists around it.
I have it on good authority that a lot of the Proteas players can’t even sleep at night prior to matches in tournaments, fearing what could go wrong. In the IPL however, they positively set the cricket world alight as they are there to give it a go.
So how can they break these pressure shackles that they have clearly let handicap them when it matters most? Well when you consider the weight of expectation on these guys after 20+ years of tournament failure, it’s no easy peasy process.
South African fans are arguably the most demanding in the world which certainly doesn’t help, reminding the players how they ‘have to win’, but I can’t see this ever changing.
Perhaps the Proteas will never win an ICC trophy going forward with things the way they are. Corporate South Africa also plays a massive role here. The players are made out to be these unstoppable forces, and find themselves in these PR shit storms like that #ProteaFire debacle. Such things only add to the already substantial weight of expectation, and the dreaded end result - pressure.
This pressure paralyses just seems to go from one group to another, and whether it was under Hansie Cronje, Graeme Smith or AB de Villiers, they literally choke themselves to death on it.
There is only one thing to do then, the players need to become more hard arsed and selfish. Back themselves and wholeheartedly believe in themselves. Make every moment just about themselves and their immediate roles. Cricket may be a team game, but it’s one where individual brilliance is essential.
I have been saying this for a while now, but the recent night and day form wise between the Proteas’ players in the WT20 to the IPL confirms this once and for all.
They need to just focus on themselves, forget about all this ‘one team, one nation’ bullshit, and the ‘pride’ and #ProteaFire. Just play cricket, and just be bloody brilliant, that’s all anyone actually cares about.
I know this sounds simplistic, but the Proteas problems are always made out to be complex so this is why this is the way forward.