Opinion: South Africa fail to walk the talk

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AB de Villiers waxed lyrical about individual plans for each opposition batsman, and while the theory sounded plausible, the practical delivery was entirely underwhelming.

South Africa's defeat to India in Cardiff on Thursday can't be viewed in isolation. The bigger picture, which is to ultimately right the many wrongs accrued across several major ICC tournament exits, has been severely dented – and demands quick correction.

AB de Villiers waxed lyrical about individual plans for each opposition batsman, and while the theory sounded plausible, the practical delivery was entirely underwhelming. The seam attack's collective insistence with short-pitched bowling was one-dimensional, and suggested a blanket gameplan rather than one customised for each of Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, etc.

Perhaps the Proteas read too much into Mahendra Singh Dhoni's admission that his troops were at odds with some recent changes to the laws of ODI cricket. Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rory Kleinveldt certainly appreciated the chance to bowl two bouncers per over, but neither did it to positive effect. This is not the Indian order of old, unable to answer chin music. A harsh lesson duly learnt, despite the characteristic carry on offer on true English pitches.

Granted, injury to Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel necessitated a slight change in direction, but the first- and second-change seamers were found entirely wanting without their main ace – and later his second-in-command. The selectors, with the sage insight of Gary Kirsten, must consider calling up an additional pace resource. A batsmen-heavy squad is now very unbalanced – and the arrival of Chris Morris, Kyle Abbott or Vernon Philander will restore appropriate measure.

Colin Ingram's promotion as an opening batsman didn't work, and if anyone was going to fill the void left by Graeme Smith's injury, it should have been the skipper – or at least Alviro Petersen. South Africa have no qualms in pushing de Villiers to the top of the knock in T20I competition, and the manoeuvre shouldn't be reserved exclusively for the shortest format of the international game.

The hard-hitting de Villiers is, arguably, the country's best limited-overs batsman – and warrants more time at the crease. This ideal will be best served alongside Hashim Amla – against the two new balls. Petersen, meanwhile, can feel aggrieved. A late addition to the squad in the wake of Smith's absence and some fine form in county cricket, the full-time opener was snubbed for Ingram's stopgap role. Teams truly settled on the composition of their XI, genuinely vying for the title, don't make such impulsive decisions.

Part-time spinner JP Duminy's full complement of 10 overs, Robin Peterson's top-order cameo and Ryan McLaren's standalone vigil were consolatory highlights in an otherwise inadequate performance. South Africa will know full well, too, much more will be required against Pakistan – the same Pakistan that outgunned them in the warmup match – come Monday in Birmingham.

<b>Jonhenry Wilson</b>

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