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On top of the world


Graeme SmithDeft touches, exquisite cover drives, thundering deliveries and brilliant displays of fielding skills later South Africa have become the number one side in all three forms of the game. It has come with Gary Kirsten as the brains behind the scenes. He is the same man that took India to the helm of Test cricket and a World Cup victory. Sadly, since the work he does remains backstage and passes back there are restricted, comments on his contribution though evident, might be a bit ‘in the air.’ Let’s leave the director of these performances for a bit and take a look at some of the artists performing at this carnival – The Saffers.
Ringmaster Smith has been quite exceptional as a leader. He has led South Arica in a record 94 Tests and has performed with the bat at a level none can complain about. Strong man Kallis has gone beyond words. He may not be able to bowl long spells, but he has made up for that by providing breakthroughs within his first three-four overs. There’s nothing much to be said about his batting for ‘One cannot simply talk about Kallis’ batting, one must bow before it.’ The Magician Amla has conjured up 3000 ODI runs in record time beating the great King Viv. Deemed as a scamster who couldn’t do well in the shorter format when he first came on the scene, Hashim Amla has become a hybrid of Merlin, Mandrake and Houdini. Like a magician he has scored runs with a wave of his wand and like an escape artist has pulled SA out of tough spots many a time. Once Dean Jones called him a terrorist, today bowlers around the world might call him one.  The Juggler AB de Villiers performs his parts with a gusto that makes the audience go ‘Bravo, Bravo.’ He has juggled his role as a keeper, the aggressor and the rebuilder to perfection. His batting has improved manifold and his keeping would have made Mark Boucher proud. The balloon modelers Steyn, Morkel and Philander have dazzled audiences by turning batsmen into bunnies, donkeys, monkeys, cats on a hot tin roof and Chris Martins. Steyn provides the swing and pace, Morkel provides the pace and bounce while Philander provides the unnerving accuracy required to strangle batsmen and blow them away.

South Africa’s trek to the top has been guided by these Sherpas. Their climb has not been a sudden one. They have put in consistent performances both home and away. Man to man SA appears to be a team stronger than any other opposition. At least four members from this current lot would feature in a World XI team. Apart from a world class spinner, South Africa have the personnel to fill every role to the tee. The only thing they have lacked has been mental toughness – that extra that’s required to perform under pressure. However, under the aegis of ‘Guru Gary’ they seem to have found their ‘mojo’. Whether or not they are able to shed their tag of chokers will be revealed at the World T20 in SL. They have the batsmen to play spin and the bowlers to restrict the opposition. There is no reason why they can’t christen themselves as World T20 champs by the end of the tournament. Their reign definitely should last longer than India’s and England’s. Well played South Africa.

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