"The bottom line in Test cricket is getting enough runs and taking 20 wickets, and at the moment we are simply not getting enough runs," said South Africa's convenor of selectors, Peter Pollock. Toward that end, a group of South African batsmen, including those likely to feature in the team selected for the first of five Test matches, in Johannesburg from 26 November, are spending two days in Bloemfontein in the experienced hands of Eddie Barlow.
Barlow played 30 Tests for South Africa in the 1960s as an all-rounder who opened the batting, and he is now one of the most respected coaches in the country. Since the 1996 World Cup there has been no better limited overs team in the world than South Africa, but losing the Test series in England this year was a blow for the captain, Hansie Cronje, and the coach, Bob Woolmer.
Similarly, South Africa's failure to take a series off Australia since their readmission to world cricket in 1991 is a source of national discomfort. However, Pollock is confident that the teams he selects for the series against the West Indians can succeed without departing from the accepted South African way of cricket.
"It's all about applying fully what the world may regard as limited resources," he said.
Superb fitness, committed fielding and disciplined bowling are the familiar aspects of South Africa's play.
Sorting out the batting will entail, in part, finding an opening partner for Gary Kirsten, although Adam Bacher seems to have reclaimed his place with a century and two half-centuries in the first two rounds of the domestic first-class competition, and helping Kirsten over a finger injury and a form trough. Jacques Kallis, Daryll Cullinan and Cronje all played key roles in South Africa winning a limited overs tournament in Bangladesh earlier this month, and their continued good form in South Africa's top and middle order will be crucial.
Influencing Pollock, Cronje and Woolmer will be a nation which demands victory, regardless of the opposition.
As Pollock put it: "The guys know they're picked to win, and the public wants nothing less."Reuse content