An expression we are well versed with in contests is the battle of ‘David vs Goliath’, a.k.a, the battle of the underdog vs the mighty.
In truth when we talk about cricket today, if the Big 3 in India, Australia and England along with the ever-improving New Zealand aren’t one of the teams contesting a series, the word Goliath has little meaning.
Yes, such has been the divide purely based on resources, capability and the financial might, these teams command over the rest of the world, that everyone else when compared to the Big 4, if I may are simply David.
With a heavy heart I have to admit, my beloved South Africa included!
A team that has immersed itself in the buzz words, a team in transition for the better part of the last two years.
With just one series win against a depleted Sri Lanka among the four long format endeavours contested since the 2019 World Cup, The Proteas surely are a pale shadow of the class we once associated with them since the onset of the last decade under captain and inspirational leader Graeme Smith.
Pit the Men in Green and Gold with a team as unpredictable as the West Indies, we surely have a contest of the two Davids, who are locking horns in the Caribbean after a whopping gap of more than 10 years.
A series as rare as finding the red diamond.
That’s right, the last time South Africa toured West Indies for a full series was way back in 2010, having won the Test Series, 2-0, the ODIs, 5-0 and the T20s, 2-0 on that occasion.
The golden era in Proteas cricket at the time saw two stalwarts come to the party in Mr. 360, AB de Villiers mounting close to 330 runs in the test whites and the mighty Hash, a tad over 400 runs in the ODIs.
One would agree, cricket is not only a batter’s game, with a complete team performance having its worth in gold through adept bowling too.
The Giraffe, Morne Morkel was the pick of the bowlers at the time in the ODI leg with 11 scalps and The Phalaborwa Express, Dale Steyn in the Test leg with 15.
Well, this was more than a decade back when The Proteas were the team to beat, the dominators of the world game.
Which brings me to a thought-provoking wave in my head.
South Africa and the Windies haven’t contested a full series on the Caribbean shores for over a decade vis-à-vis India, who will lock horns with England for another five-test series having already contested four in 2021 itself.
Demonstrating an example of how some teams get to play frequently whereas there are also some who hardly get to lock horns in usual regular fashion.
Nine tests in one year between India and England vs NO tests in more than 10 years between West Indies and South Africa in Caribbean land.
Wow, is performance and fairness all the ICC looks at while formulating the FTP?
You be the judge.
This being said, let’s turn our focus on the series at hand pinning these two underdogs.
South Africa have turned a new leaf in their test cricket fortunes as the gritty and determined Dean of The Proteas School of Cricket takes over the reins in Mr. Elgar.
Yes, the southpaw has been appointed South Africa’s new test captain with the belief of all but arresting the declining test match form shown by the Proteas.
What gives me hope though is the character that this Proteas’ opener would bring to the table, to never surrender despite facing heaps of adversity.
With marshals in Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen to fall upon, Elgar would use their much-needed experience in building this team.
Add to this, the exuberance of youth in Keegan Petersen, Wiaan Mulder and the next big thing in South African cricket, Kyle Verreynne, the Proteas would have a good mix of youngsters to complement the experience of Dean’s marshals.
Having said this, selection always has its share of critics with me being one of them, as much to my surprise and may be others too, was the exclusion of two ex-kolpaks in off spinner Simon Harmer and speedster Kyle Abbott when the Proteas squad was announced.
Such has been the form these two giants have shown in county cricket with Harmer being the leading wicket-taker followed by Abbott, that their experience would be worth every cent for this Proteas’ bowling line up.
Moreover, Harmer as the off-spinner could be the perfect foil for the left-armer, Keshav Maharaj on the low and slow Caribbean tracks.
Well, the truth is they haven’t been included and its pointless to cry over spilt milk!
To build a team through words is one thing albeit the only thing that matters is performance on the field for this team in Green and Gold.
Performance to do better than just getting three centuries in their last eight tests, crossing 300 just twice in 15 innings.
Yes, if the Proteas harbour any ambitions of overcoming The Windies, performance and winning battles in key moments would more than be the need of the hour.
But make no mistake, the West Indian challenge is not going to be an easy one with the likes of Kemar Roach, Rahkeem Cornwall, Kyle Myers, Jason Holder, Kraigg Brathwaite and others making them as formidable as any team at home.
While the hosts, aware of their superiority over the visitors on the Test rankings, could start as favorites, they’d be aware that they’re to contest a team that’s far more united than theirs that often banks upon one flash of brilliance or two. Perhaps it’s only imperative that the Windies batsmen unite if they’re to tackle a bowling attack they’ve seldom seen live in flesh and blood given the sheer dearth of opportunities.
After all, my dear South Africa you no longer are the team you once were in 2010.
Truth be told, as I die-hard supporter of The Proteas, would surely hope to see the buzz words change from ‘A Team in Transition’ to ‘Can Surmount’ when this two-test series ends.
Will this be hope or reality, in just over two weeks, we will have the answer!