Former Proteas coach Eric Simons would prefer to see the current coaching team choose a team of players and show faith in them, rather than tinker every time they falter when it comes to results.
Regardless of the outcome of the ongoing fourth and final test against England (it is scheduled to finish on Tuesday), the rebuilding Proteas have become a team so low on confidence that they might be terrified of their own shadow.
As their insecurity has shown itself over the past two tests in particular, the cricketing public has taken the opportunity to suggest one favourite or another in a team rendered changeable by the need to arrest the slide in performance.
Simons would like to see less chopping and changing: “My view is that they must pick their team and be patient, consistent and instil confidence in individuals by backing them. We know the quality’s there, we forget that, three tests ago, we were back with the win at Centurion.
“So we started tinkering and questioning. I think we need to say: ‘No, we were good enough to win at Centurion, let’s give it to the best men for the job, back them and be patient.’ When a team is lacking confidence, what you must do is show confidence – if you believe you’ve got the right people.”
Simons said South Africans should be careful of making up their minds about the team based solely on its results.
“I don’t judge performance purely on the outcome,” he said.
“If you look at how we bowled in Pretoria, I’d say that’s a good performance because of the way we were bowling, the lengths we were bowling and the discipline we showed.
“It doesn’t matter whether it was in India or Centurion, the actual execution of a plan was there. But, when things went wrong, they felt a need to tinker instead of saying: ‘Let’s stick to what we’re doing or what we did in Pretoria.’
“Sometimes it’s about doing the simple things brilliantly, and that’s what we needed to do. I think we panicked a bit when things went awry in Cape Town and we looked for short-term solutions, when we should have just gone back to the basics.”
Despite the fact that just about every Proteas player’s right to play for the national team is being questioned, Simons wasn’t so sure there was heavy artillery lying around in the domestic game.
“There’s nobody out there who, through their weight of runs or wickets, says: ‘You have to pick me.’”
Looking at the South African batting line-up, whose struggles to score 300 or more runs per innings are becoming the stuff of legendary ineptitude, Simons said they were playing while struggling with the fear of failure.
“I look at a guy like Zubayr Hamza and I’ve been so impressed with him. But he’s gone more and more into his shell, and is more like a guy feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders. A batting line-up is about backing each other. At the moment, we have a situation where everybody’s feeling the pressure. And while their bowling line-up is decent, I just think we haven’t put them under pressure. We’ve let them get away with stuff because we haven’t chanced our arm against the bowling attack, so they don’t look as threatening.”
Simons wouldn’t buy into the idea that so many of the players who were unsure of themselves were feeling that way because of the social media maelstrom behind their selection or non-selection.
“Selection, pressure of selection and pressure of being in a team is in every environment – it’s just a matter of what environment you’re in,” he said.