Proteas almost have it all
There is a good reason it is difficult to remember the last time South Africa lost a Test abroad. It was long ago - so long ago that Sachin Tendulkar could still score big runs and not having a black African in the starting XI was considered curious.
February 2010 was the last time the Proteas lost a Test on the road. India surged back from a hefty defeat in Nagpur to crush South Africa by an innings and 57 runs at the majestic Eden Gardens.
It was a result that enabled India, then coached by Gary Kirsten, to hold onto their No1 ranking. It was the first of four consecutive series in which South Africa contested the title. Tendulkar scored a century and it was the first series in years that Makhaya Ntini had not been part of. He was dropped two months earlier, at home against England, immediately after playing his 100th match.
Those facts have little to do with the successful run South Africa have had away from home, except that Ntini was an important part of it. As important as the job Ashwell Prince, Neil McKenzie and even Paul Harris did, none of whom still feature in the side.
It happens. A successful team is one that evolves without losing its core and South Africa have been able to do that for the past six years. That is why they have had the players who have been able to adapt to all conditions and who have built a proud, unbeaten run.
It is a record that is testament to the Test squad's strength of mind - we all know the limited-overs teams have to catch up - which has allowed them to overcome teams anywhere. It was obvious in England how much mental progress South Africa have made: they did not succumb to pressure once.
Australia will be a different challenge. Even though their team is in transition, their resolve is certain to be stronger than England's, who at some stages were as limp as a cucumber sandwich left in the sun.
South Africa were able to ascend to the top and now have to defend their status. Graeme Smith compared it to being able to stand firm when a strong wind arrives. No gust will blow fiercer than Australia. At the moment, no squad can stand as strongly as South Africa.
They seem to have it all - seven batsmen, a varied attack and enough reserves. All except a black African.
Whatever the team's achievements, that is unacceptable.
Demographic representation might be seen as the responsibility of grass-root structures, but there are two obvious choices the national selectors have ignored. Lonwabo Tsotsobe was dropped from the squad without explanation, and Thami Tsolekile is being denied the chance he deserves.
This is not about politics, which has never been separate from South African sport anyway. It is about fairness and about giving the country a team it can call its own, a team that will be just as good as the ones that have not lost a Test away since 2010.