Cold comfort for Phangiso
For Aaron Phangiso, a summer of discontent didn't end too badly.
Man of the match against Sri Lanka on Monday night, the left-arm spinner ended the season with some compensation in one that had more wides than wickets, metaphorically speaking.
He might have felt that the award in a lame-duck T20 World Cup victory this week made up in a small way for being labelled a chucker and a drunk (it's uncertain which one carries more weight).
Earlier in the season, bowling's Big Brother suddenly decided - after having watched Phangiso for 10 years in first-class cricket - that his action was illegal. Only a mean-spirited bunch of Mother Grundies could do such a thing.
In January - two months after being found to be under the influence - Cricket SA, one of the game's perfectionists of the reverse sweep under carpet, admitted that the poor bloke had been pissed on a flight from Mumbai to Dubai. (Who wouldn't want to get sozzled on such a route?) The eventual revelation reflected badly on CSA rather than on the inebriated Phangiso.
The reason for raising the case of Phangiso is that he was taken on a tour of India in a show of window-dressing in October, played only one game in which he took 0/51, then dragged along to the World T20 carnival and only allowed out on his own in South Africa's second-last match of the tournament, when times were desperate.
In Nagpur on Friday night, it was clear that Phangiso should have been in the team all along. He took 1/19 off his four overs, on a surface that was the closest thing to a sticky since they decided to cover the pitches.
It was a wicket that suited him to perfection. It made you wonder why Cricket SA, and its selectors, had hesitated for so long in picking him for a match XI.
Three days later, he proved a match-winner, but in a game that no longer mattered.
So the Proteas ended an underwhelming World T20 tournament with slightly less than a whimper (defeat against Sri Lanka would have made it one), but with some serious questions for the people who allegedly run the game.
Is the coach up to his job? Are the selectors? We know that Cricket SA isn't.
In India, South Africa needed that great triumvirate of Dibbly, Dobbly and Wobbly. Ferhaan Berhardien is a fine exponent of the art, but was ignored until the last game. We have plenty of others back home, but CSA selectors insist on picking Test players for T20s. It was puzzling.
At least it was only a T20 tournament, so there will not be any sackcloth and soul-searching. And Australia also got it wrong. Steve Smith neglected a wonderful legspin find in Adam Zampa when India, through a fabulous innings by Virat Kohli, eliminated the real world champions.
But, hopefully, South Africa have learnt a few lessons from their dismal performance at the tournament. They are not as good as they think they are, the selectors are rubbish and the coach - and his assistants - are out of their depth. Before the next serious engagement, there is time to fix the faults, but only if the faults are clearly identified. That is the real worry.
- Captain Faf du Plessis was fined 50% of his match fee for "occupying the crease for a period of time" after being given out lbw, before leaving the field while shaking his head in Monday's match.
It was his second fine for dissent in less than a year. He faces suspension if he commits a third offence before October, 12 months since the first, the ICC said yesterday.
Additional reporting by AFP