When I’m an old woman, grey, frail and allowed to be cantankerous, I’ll gather my grandkids about me, puff on something seemly for my age and station, and launch into a tale about the many, many Aussie whippings that I watched dished out to us. The spectre of the Waugh brothers at the Wanderers crease, the world cup agonies, the humbling series defeats, the glimmers of hope that were so cruelly bowled over by Messrs Warne, McGrath and Co…. And my grandkids will nudge each other impatiently wondering what the point of my tirade is. And then I’ll get to the tour of OZ in 08/09 and everything will be much clearer.
The twin victories in the test and ODI series are massive to South African cricket, South African sport but even beyond sport- It is a triumph over the ugly politics, the discontent over the board’s commitment to play a team that is reflective of the country it represents, the emigrations en masse ala Pieterson- these victories speak of a nation that is prepared to roll up its sleeves and fight through the night.
When Graeme Smith was dressed by Morne Morkel in Jacques Kallis’ shirt and Paul Harris’ stained pullover and faced ten gut wrenching balls with a plastered forearm, that fighting spirit was exemplified. The series was already won, we could have gone easily into the good night, it was a dead rubber, it really wouldn’t have mattered that much, but Captain, Hero, you call him what you like so long as it is sufficiently adulatory, he showed what it meant to be a Captain of a South African team. It’s little wonder Kevin Pieterson resigned the England captaincy soon thereafter, he probably realised this captaincy business had been set standards he wasn’t likely to scratch up to.
We may be accused of dishing out an unfair portion of our glee to Mr Pieterson, but you see these victories have justified in the most everything that KP has so publicly and liberally criticised about SA cricket. Among the stars of the test series were JP Duminy and Hashim Amla, players whose place in the team would previously be labelled spots of affirmative action, they flouted the misconceptions and silenced the detractors with every stroke of the ball while playing among the other rising stars, the Morkels, Steyn and within a team united in purpose and spirit.
And the spirit in which the Proteas approached the tour is in itself something to be proud of. Far from the maddening controversies that mired India’s tour down under, the Proteas, led admirably by Captain Fantastic, were not duped into engaging in wars of words. Even in the immediate aftermath of the ODI series victory, Johan Botha, called on the team to be humble. Truly signs of a great team.
With bat and ball they played, with bat and ball history has been made. Rock on SA!
This was originally posted at SA Rocks.