Faf must get timing right
WHEN Faf du Plessis tossed the coin in Kimberley yesterday, he became South Africa's fourth one-day captain in less than two years. That statistic reflects a team that has not yet found its place in the 50-over format and is continually making attempts to do so.
After Graeme Smith stepped down, there was the brief enforced dalliance with Hashim Amla when newly anointed captain AB de Villiers was injured. Amla hated the job so much that he has since resigned his duties as vice-captain, so Du Plessis has had to do it.
Of the quartet, Du Plessis appears the best long-term candidate. He seems flexible without being flustered and can delegate without feeling out of control. What remains to be seen is how his own game responds.
But he can't solve South Africa's ODI problems alone. What the leaders before Du Plessis lacked was spontaneity in their creativity. Unlike Test cricket, ODIs are not won through stoic persistence but by moments of brilliance. It's flashes like that that South Africa's permanent captain will have to know how to conjure up. He will also have to be able to get the timing of those flashes perfect.
Let's be honest: dominating one-day cricket for periods of time is pointless. Limited-overs formats are not about maintaining a ranking position, they are about peaking. The sheer number of fixtures dictate that only World Cups have any real value these days.
Consider that, between them, India and Sri Lanka play close to a half century of matches a year, and sometimes that is just against each other.
Meaningless tri-series are not just limited to Australia. This year one will be played in the West Indies for a reason most have not been able to figure out. Oh yes, money.
Although the most dour version of the game, one-day cricket still brings in cash through TV rights sales. Even a forgettable event like the Champions Trophy (that's the one where the top eight countries compete in a mini-World Cup) must go ahead even though it was due to be taken over by a Test championship.
Thankfully though, June will be the last Champions Trophy. By August, nobody will remember who won, unless it's South Africa.
ICC silverware has remained as elusive to the team as proper representation of the country's population, and if they are able to lay their hands on the trophy we may hear about it until the end of time. Or at least until 2015, when they either mess up again or win another one at the World Cup.
All the one-day games in the lead up to that tournament will be spoken about as part of a building phase, but it is important that whoever the captain is understands they are not just bricks.
One-day cricket is not about stacking up. It's about drawing a house as quickly as you can without lifting your pen. That skill is more instinctive than learned. What South Africa must remember is that even instinct can be honed.