It is just as well that Dave the Silent has been away plying his engineering skills in distant parts of Africa, and that the highly unpatriotic outpourings of the usual gathering as applied to the national cricket team had escaped his ears.
But now the Silent One had made his way back and was firmly ensconced in his normal position and eager to catch up on just how the Proteas had been faring in the World T20 in India. There was some humming and hawing as he posed the questions you would have expected, with no single member of the assembly willing to offer himself as a potential target.
But the Silent One – while he firmly contends that he offers no deeply expert opinions on the game and greatly prefers the chess game of Tests to the quick draughts-like business of limited-overs cricket – takes a strong interest in how the South African sides are doing. It was, inevitably perhaps, the Arithmetically-challenged Golfer who broke the growing impasse.
“It is obvious, even though they have played poorly, that there remains abundant talent just waiting to burst through. “Watching them,” he told the Silent One, “has been frustrating in the extreme … and of course, they are on their way home already.
“In some ways,” said the Arithmetically-challenged One, “they bring to mind the critique of legendary dancer Fred Astaire’s abilities during a screen test with RKO Studios early in what was to become one of the fabled careers in film. ‘Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little. While I am not convinced that the Proteas are follically-deficient, the rest rings startlingly true. Can’t bat. Can’t bowl. Can field a little.
“I mean, how can they allow a pace attack as supposedly good as South Africa’s, allow England to chase down 230? And why did they persist with short deliveries down the leg-side? That begs a side to park the ball in Row Z.
“And against the Windies, a game we had to win, how does a batsman as experienced as Hashim Amla run himself out ball-watching and become the catalyst of a top-order collapse of note? An epic choke.”
At the mention of Astaire, the Silent One’s eyes had lit up. Under the tirade from the Arithmetically-challenged One, the eyes became hooded and he turned to the self-styled expert on all sporting matters.
“You all know that I have reservations about the hit and giggle type of cricket. But you have to accept that you are not going to come off every time you walk out. Sometimes you have to take it on the chin. I am just glad I was away and not able to witness it. There is, though, always another day.” The Arithmetically-challenged One did a small choke of his own.
“We have been hearing that for years,” he said. “And I for one, am getting tired of mediocre performances. We need to listen to the critics for once.” The Silent One turned towards him. “Ah yes,” he said, “but if we all took that approach, we would never have seen Astaire dance, would we”?