November 26 2013 at 12:54pm By Zaahier Adams
Port Elizabeth: The importance of the coin toss in cricket has often been debated. Critics argue that no team should gain an advantage purely on the basis of which side a coin lands before the contest has even started.
Bar extreme pitch and overhead conditions, this theory is often misguided as the better team primarily still emerges the victor.
However, the current Proteas one-day team that remains firmly entrenched in their embryonic stages despite recent growth spurts in the UAE, are becoming almost dependent on winning the toss and batting first.
Whereas South African teams of previous generations enjoyed inserting the opposition in order to chase down a total, AB de Villiers’s side is almost in reverse mode.
A “win the toss and bat first” culture has developed with this current team, leaving questions around South Africa’s ability to chase down a total.
Teams are meant to play to their strengths in order to gain victories, but the Proteas’ recent record of chasing down totals in limited-overs cricket is a dire one. In nine ODIs thus far in 2013 where the Proteas were required to bat second, they have only managed to haul in the opposition’s total on two occasions.
And the record has deteriorated over the last six matches with South Africa failing to cross the line each time, including last Sunday’s defeat to Pakistan at Newlands in the first ODI of the three-match series.
“Batting second is a problem which we need to solve,” Proteas assistant coach Adrian Birrell told the media at the team’s opulent sea-side hotel yesterday.
“We need to develop the confidence to chase down a total. We are learning lessons, hard lessons, all the time, but it is a nice opportunity for us as a team to set chasing down a total as a beacon for us to overcome.”
Each ODI and series has an individual importance, but ultimately South Africa’s destination with the team is the 2015 World Cup. The long-term planning and strategy implementation is arguably of far greater consequence than winning a series that was hastily arranged to fill the fixture void left because of the curtailed Indian tour, so could the Proteas opt to bat second should De Villiers win the toss at St George’s Park in the second ODI tomorrow?
“We would certainly think about that, but there are decisions we need to make as in how best to take this team forward. We have a series to win too, and we should give ourselves the best possible chance of levelling it here in Port Elizabeth,” said the Grahamstown-born Birrell.
The South African brainstrust could mull over a few selection changes, although it is likely to have a greater effect on the bowling unit. There is currently an abundance of riches in the pace-bowling department, with any squad member capable of slotting in and performing admirably.
Birrell admitted “We continue to bowl well” but hinted at a possible “horses for courses” policy after Vernon Philander played at his Newlands home ground on Sunday. Left-arm duo Wayne Parnell and Lonwabo Tsotsobe hail from these parts, and with Tsotsobe having recovered from his illness that laid him low in Cape Town, the local boys could both possibly get a run in PE.
Ryan McLaren, who was named Man of the Series in the UAE but was inexplicably left out on Sunday due to Jacques Kallis’s return, could also be in line for a recall.
“Ryan’s had a fantastic run, and likewise Parnell offers us something different. It is a luxury we have to be able to call on so many good bowlers. They will all come into the mix, Lopsy too, and without saying who is actually going to play, we could change it around a bit.