Lefties need a helping hand
SOME might snigger at the notion that a small fry like Zimbabwe could teach a superior lot like South Africa anything about cricket. But, teach they did.
Not only did the little brothers show their neighbours how to bat and bowl on slower sub-continent-like surfaces, and how to transform a game so that it actually includes the majority of the population, they also asked questions of South Africa that must be answered quickly and clinically. The most pressing one seems to be finding out what's bothering Wayne Parnell and Lonwabo Tsotsobe?
It was only two years ago that the two left-armers were talked about as the most exciting new entries into the South African bowling attack. Not since Brett Schultz had southpaws borne such hope. Parnell was quick and menacing, and rose to prominence after starring in the World T20 in 2010. Tsotsobe took a little longer to settle at international level, but his accuracy and subtlety soon took him to the top of the ODI rankings.
With such dynamic starts to their careers, nothing should be worrying them too gravely, but both were under par in Zimbabwe.
Parnell was walloped for 61 runs off four overs in his first match and, while he did haul his economy rate back in later fixtures, he still finished the tournament as South Africa's most expensive bowler. Tsotsobe was not far behind; as the third-most-costly, and he looked less and less interested as the series progressed.
Between them, they bowled nine no-balls and nine wides, which add up to three extra overs - a sign of waning confidence. Headline writers might well have forgotten how to spell either of their names as Marchant de Lange and Vernon Philander hog the bowling limelight and shove Parnell and Tsotsobe into the shadows.
From the display they put on in Zimbabwe, both seem in need of attention, but answers Gary Kirsten had when the team arrived home suggest neither will get it. Kirsten said he thought Parnell had a "good tour", in which he "got better and better".
That's true, but a lack of concern on the part of the coach about Parnell's inconsistency is also a concern.
Tsotsobe's efforts were dismissed casually as well.
Kirsten said Tsotsobe knows "he was a bit slow", and is a "proud cricketer" who will be back at his best in England. When asked what caused the sluggishness, Kirsten was vague. Tsotsobe has a history of being offish, from his Essex embarrassment last winter to his feather-ruffling departure from the Warriors a few months ago. No one seems to understand him well enough to know how to switch him back on.
There could be a saviour within the national team set-up though. Russell Domingo coached both Parnell and Tsotsobe at the Warriors and should know them better than most. If he does, now would be a good time to provide the mentorship both need to set right what went wrong in Zimbabwe.