A Change is Coming

16/05/2010

The media attack on the Protea’s has been brutal since their tepid performance at the T20 World Cup in the West Indies. As cricket fans sit back and watch the final between the two best sides by far in the tourniment, Australia, who will hold all ICC trophies should they win, and an England side inspired by 3 South Africans at the top of the order, and an Irishman in the middle, the Protea’s will take stock.

The criticism directed at Smith and his team has been scathing, and led by many past players. South Africa go into ICC events amongst the favourites, and generally get to the semi final’s before crashing out. However the last two ICC events, the Champions Trophy, which they hosted, and this T20 World Cup, has seen the Protea’s fail to reach the knock out rounds.

Once people have calmed down and reviewed the past weeks properly, then only should we begin to properly discuss what needs to be done as the Protea’s look to put an end to their ICC events drought. There have been calls for the heads of Smith, Kallis and Boucher as many give opinions based solely on emotion.

Kallis was the Protea’s top run scorer in the T20 World Cup. Added to this was his bowling, which was as good as we’ve seen for a very long time. He may be 34 but shows no sign of declining standards. Anyway suggesting that Kallis should go have motives beyond cricket. The great man should not be hounded out of the national set up but rather carry on leading the batting attack. Just as India have looked to keep Tendulkar going for as long as his body will allow, so should South Africa. The reality is that Kallis, as an allrounder, will not last as long as Tendulkar. He could prolong his career by becoming a pure batsman who bowls occasionally, as Steve Waugh became during the twilight of his career. Sadly, as I’ve said time and time again, Protea fans who don’t appreciate the greatness of Kallis will when we no longer have him to call on.

South Africa did not go into this competition and choke. They were badly off form. Man for man they are still one of the best and most balanced side in the world. Unfortunately very few of their players got any IPL time and the patchy limited over form, that stretches back a year, has clung on.

Form is one thing but there are some aspects of this last week that need to be addressed. The team were tepid and lacked any spark at all. The chases against England and Pakistan lacked energy and most alarmingly, any idea. Their was no urgency in a do or die chase against Pakistan, until Johan Botha came in at the end. The big hitting Albie Morkel was nudging the ball for singles, when clearing the stands was needed. Going down swinging is more preferably than feebly scratching around. That is the aspect that needs to be addressed and sorted before all else.

As for the team – changes will be made. Freshening up needs to be done soon with the next World Cup under a year away. The issue of captain is one that maybe should be left till after the world cup. Smith has led the team for 7 years, and while his record in Tests is good, he would not be happy with the major tournament record. If it was his planning and tactics in the chases against England and Pakistan than maybe a change is needed.

Andrew Hudson, the new head of the selection committee has spoken about any changes needing to wait for a full review by all involved. Wise words. His calling up of David Miller to be added to the squad for the West Indies tour though speaks volumes. A fresh face, and young blood, has been added to an experienced and maybe shell shocked team. It’s also an addition that shows Hudson is well aware of the short comings of the team. Miller is a powerful hitting batsman who boasts a T20 strike rate of 131 and List A strike rate of 109 as well has averages of 40 and 35 in each. The ability to find the boundary has been left on Morkels shoulders, and with the help of Miller, South African batting line up could be set to again pose a threat.

While changes should not be made for changes sake, you’d have to say that the likes of Colin Ingram, Riley Roussow, Stian van Zyl, Darren Smit and Rusty Theron will be looking to get their chance in a youthful influx and fresh changes to the Protea’s set up. Changes that will hopefully bring about success that the country has been starved of for years. David Miller will look to lead this influx, starting in the West Indies next week.

pic from cricinfo.com

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Kallis Justified

14/04/2010

A few years ago Norman Arendse was in charge of South African cricket. His time in charge was more controversial than successful. Amongst the happenings under hiswatch was the retirement of Charl Langeveld, who refused to be used as a political pawn by Arendse, who has withdrawn Andre Nel from a touring team and replaced him with Langeveld, because he wanted less white players and more players of colour. Heroically Langeveld did not allow this to happen. There was also the occasion, a post match presentation to Shaun Pollock, who had played his final game for the Protea’s and had received a reception fit for the legend of the game that he is, and Arsendse decided to interrupt this goodbye to one of the countries favorite sons, to wish his daughter a happy birthday on live TV. I hope she was as embarrassed as the rest of us.

Perhaps the biggest mess up of his thankfully short stint, yet still too long, in charge of the countries cricket team, was his veto of Jacques Kallis from the first T20 World Cup squad. South Africa, still searching for their first ICC World Cup triumph, were hosting the tournament, and Arendse decided that the best cricketer the country had ever produced was not good enough to play T20 cricket. South Africa
bowed out before the semi finals with just one defeat – how Kallis experience was needed.

In the years that followed, taking us to this point, IPL 2010, Kallis has shown himself to be one of the best T20 players in the world. Currently jostling with the great Tendulkar for the Orange Cap, that worn by the leading run scorer in the IPL,
Kallis has been instrumental in the fortunes of the Bangalore Royal Challengers.  He has played the part of the batsman other look to play around, opening the batting and looking to bat for as long as possible, but has shown enough aggression and wonderful timing to keep the runs ticking over at a very healthy rate. He can field and bowl too.

Many thought in the infancy of T20 cricket that it wasn’t made for Test masters like Kallis. They forgot, or failed to understand that the likes of Kallis and Tendulkar are legends for a reason. They are able to not only adapt to any form of the game,
but to master it. That’s why they are the best. Maybe Arendse is watching, and this time he feels embarrassed. I doubt it though.
But Kallis won’t give him a second thought. He’ll just carry on doing what he was born to do – play cricket brilliantly.

pic from cricinfo.com


Time for Change

24/10/2009

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The Protea’s have announced their squads for the two ODI games against Zimbabwe, the two T20 games against England, and the first three ODI games against England. While not exactly making surprise selections, they have made some brave, proactive choices after South Africa’s failures in the Champions Trophy.

South Africa have been the most consistent, and perhaps the best, ODI team over the last few years, but their record in ODI series has not been transferred to ICC events. As the team looks to rectify this problem, and build towards the next T20 World Cup next year and the ICC World Cup in 2011. With this entire in mind the selectors have dropped stalwarts Makhaya Ntini and Herchelle Gibbs, while uncapped Heino Kuhn and Ryan McLaren get call ups, and Loots Bosman, Alviro Peterson, and Charl Langeveld earn recalls. Robin Peterson also misses out from the squad that did duty in the Champions Trophy.

The exclusion of Ntini is noteworthy but hardly surprising. The fast bowler has been in most Protea’s squads in recent times, but has not been part of the full strength ODI team, losing his place to the young talent Wayne Parnell. His ODI form has been on the decline in the last 18 months, and the man who was once the spearhead of the attack, and formed a formidable opening bowling partnership with Shaun Pollock, could be seeing his ODI career take a natural death. He is still however part of the Test plans.

The dropping of Gibbs is a little different. Gibbs has lost his Test place a year ago and now finds himself out of the ODI and T20 squads too. At 35 it will be hard for him to force his way back into the team, but he is still supremely fit, still one of the best fielders around, and if he develops consistency with his batting, he could still earn a recall. That’s been the problem with Gibbs – a lack of consistency. Flashes of his old brilliance have been punctuating low scores and the selectors would prefer it the other way around. His performance in the Champions League for the Cape Cobra’s sums up his form over the last couple of years. He scored 1 run in his first three innings before smashing a superb 42 in the semi final; where he gave his wicket away instead of going on to lead his team to a winning target.

Changes to the personnel aren’t the only ones the Protea’s have unveiled for the upcoming matches. With Gibbs missing out the thought would be that Hashim Amla or Alviro Peterson would open the batting with Smith. The selectors though have decided that Kallis will open, something he has been doing in T20 matches for both South Africa and Bangalore, with AB de Villiers and JP Duminy each moving up one place to 3 and 4. Peterson, an opening batsman, will then be asked to bat at 5. The inclusion of Peterson sends all the right messages to those in domestic cricket, as he has been rewarded for his run scoring with the Lions and with South Africa A. That natural progression is one that all local players need to see rewarded. Amla could come into the team anywhere from 1 to 5 if need be and Peterson could move to his natural opening birth if the Kallis move doesn’t work out. The changes do however give more responsibility to de Villiers and Duminy, and allowing them to come in a little earlier could be just what the batting line up needs.

Another interesting change is with Albie Morkel. The all rounder is set to be used as a pure batsman, coming in at number 6 and not 7 or 8 where he has been used for much of his international career. Many South African fans feel his big hitting has been wasted so low down the order, and his top score, and only international ODI 50, a 97 against Zimbabwe, was scored batting at 3. The move has been prompted by his dip in bowling form rather than recognising his batting. The pressure to bowl 10 overs will be taken off him and he will be free to concentrate on his batting. Batting at 6 will allow him more time to play himself in, something he needs, then the lower order afforded him, but it will be good to see the selectors allow him to float higher on occasion.

The bowling, badly undercooked in the Champions Trophy, has been strengthened with the recalling of Langeveld, a death bowling expert, as well as all rounder Ryan McLaren. With Dale Steyn the only bowler assured of a starting place, Langeveld and McLaren will battle with spin twins Botha and van der Merwe, Tsotsobe and Parnell for the remaining three places. The bowling options are good and varied and all should be given a chance in the two series.

The inclusion of Kuhn, the Titans opening batsman/keeper, for the T20 games against England, where he will make his international debut, gives an inkling into the selectors plans for a post Mark Boucher era for South Africa, with AB de Villiers deciding he wants to be purely a batsman and not the next Protea’s keeper.

South Africa A teams have also been named to play against England in 50 over and T20 warm up games. The A teams see squad players like Amla and Tsotsobe from the ODI squad, and Bosman and Abdulla from the T20 squad, chosen along with the new caps McLaren and Kuhn, players who have been part of the Protea’s squads and looking to play themselves back in, such as Morne Morkel, Ontong, Robin Peterson, and Thandi Tshabalala, and a good mix of young and form players knocking on the door of selection, such as Eagles players CJ de Villiers and Rilee Russouw. The A teams seem to be the players just outside the Protea’s squad, and that’s the way it should be, as a bridge to the full squad.

The full squads are: South Africa ODI squad: Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Jacques Kallis, Charl Langeveld, Ryan McLaren, Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Roelof van der Merwe

Twenty20 squad: Graeme Smith (capt), Yusuf Abdulla, Loots Bosman, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher (wk), AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Jacques Kallis, Heino Kuhn (wk), Charl Langeveld, Ryan McLaren, Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Roelof van der Merwe

South Africa A 50-overs squad: Hashim Amla (capt), Henry Davids, CJ de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn (wk), Ryan McLaren, Morne Morkel, Robin Peterson, Rilee Rossouw, Rusty Theron, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Vaughn van Jaarsveld

South Africa A 20-overs squad: Justin Ontong (capt), Yusuf Abdulla, Loots Bosman, Henry Davids, CJ de Villiers, Rory Kleinveldt, Heino Kuhn (wk), Morne Morkel, Rilee Rossouw, Rusty Theron, Thandi Tshabalala, Vaughn van Jaarsveld

pic from cricinfo.com


T20 World Cup 2009 – Preview

31/05/2009

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The final of the IPL was a week ago today – andin 5 days time the opening match of the T20 World Cup, between hosts England and the Netherlands, takes place. It really is a crowded international schedule these days.

The previous, and inaugural, T20 World Cup was hosted by South Africa and won by India two years ago. The hype and excitement of that tournament added energy and freshness to the cricket world, yet this years edition has been more understated. That probably has a lot to do with the circus that is the IPL, yet one has to feel that those marketing the World Cup in England could perhaps do a better job. World Cup’s shouldn’t sneak up on you. The IPL should have been the appetizer to the main course, which starts next week. Lets hope the cricket does a better job and all the right noises are made after.

When T20 cricket launched itself onto the world stage it was viewed as pure entertainment, a hit and miss form of the game, and not taken too seriously by those on the field. There was almost a feel that it was more about luck than skill and not much could be done to curtail the individual. It wasn’t cricket – it was glitz. Barely two years since and how things have changed. T20 is very much a skill based, tactical battle, that seems to sharpen skills, rather than deplete them. The cream always rises, and T20 has seen it mastered by the great players, the players who have excelled in Test and ODI cricket, and not the close your eyes and swing variety. T20 is real business and will be fought out by the best players  over the next few weeks.

The favourites for the crown will be the same for any cricketing competition held at this team, no matter what the format. Defending champions India have perhaps benefited the most from the IPL as their pool of players playing at a higher level has increased to one meaning a squad of 50+ players could easily be assembled. Their opening combination of Sehwag and Gambhir didn’t really fire during the IPL andwill be looking for form in England. The early swinging ball may not be to their liking, but both will be looking to get the team out of the boxes fast and not just solidly. There after the hitting power in the Indian squad is phenomenal. Anyone of Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, Raina, Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma will be able to single handedly build a total. If the batting comes off India will be hard to beat. The bowlers have a less solid look to them. Sharma, Pathan, RP Singh and Kumar will be complemented by the spin of Harbhajan and Ojha, but the key may be the form of Zaheer Khan. Zaheermissed the later part of the IPL with a shoulder njury. India’s success may depend on how quickly he recovers his form back.

Australia go into this World Cup without the favourites tag that has accompanied them for much of the last 15 years. Their squad is solid if not spectacular, but would have benefited from the rest they forced on much of their IPL contingent. The Aussies will be looking to get their hands on the only ICC competition that isn’t there’s right now. They will also be using the World Cup to get them off to a good start to their Ashes series. The dark horse tag, rather than favourite tag, may help the Aussies this time, although they have never been burdened by being favourites.

South Africa crashed out of the last edition with a loss to India in their last 2nd phase group game. It was their only loss in the competition and heir only poor performance. Smith’s men felt hard done by, given that 3 of the 4 semi final teams had lost more than them. They will be looking to get things right this time around, and maybe without the expectation of being hosts or favourites, may have more freedom to carry them forward. The balance of the squad is perhaps the best since South Africa returned to international cricket in 1992. Half the squad didn’t feature much in the IPL and should be well rested. Albie Morkel and Smith had poor showings with the bat last month and will be looking to fare better for their country then they did for their IPL teams. Yusuf Abdulla was the revelation of the first hald of the IPL, leading the wicket table at that stage, before being left out for the returning Brett Lee. He will look to carry on with that form, while at the same time showing the Kings 11 that they should have stuck with him. Abdulla, Albie Morkel, Kallis, Steyn and Parnell all offer swing, while Morne Morkel, with bounce and pace, and the spin twins of Botha and van der Merwe, make the attack a potent and balanced one. JP Duminy and AB de Villiers stared with the bat in the IPL and will be looking to carry that form. The squad boasts some of the best fielders in the world, and carries no real weakness. Solid batting, big hitting, depth, pace, swing, bounce, and spin. South Africa are looking good.

With England looking to make the most of home conditions, and momentum, following an easy convincing series win over the West Indies, and New Zealand always handy on the big stage, there are a fair amount of dark horses to watch out for. Pakistan have had very little cricket and havemuch to prove. The best outside bet however may be Sri Lanka. The seeding for the World Cup is based on the previous edition. This means that if all the top teams get through the opening phase, and they should have little trouble here, the big three favourites, India, Australia and South Africa willfind themselves in the same group, playing for 2 semi final places. Sri Lanka will be in the other group and should have an easy march trough to the semi’s. The batting lineup is a strong one, with Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Dilshan and Jayawardene all able to adept to the needed situation, and in Murli and Malinga, they have two bowlers who won’t make any total look safe.

Sri Lanka will be hoping that the big three all batter and bruise each other, weakening themselves for a possible semi andfinal show down, while the big three will be hoping that a harder run in, and an easier one for Sri Lanka, will leave them better prepared.

The winners should come from those four. However little will be taken for granted, and with a World Cup crown up for grabs, all will be giving there all to get their hands on the crown. The shorter format leads to greater chances of upsets, so the slightest complacency will be punished. If the weather plays its part we should be treated to some great cricket, hopefully cricket worthy of being the main course to the IPL appetizer.

 

pic from cricinfo.com


South Africa Need to Breathe

27/09/2007

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As South Africa once again managed to find a way not to win a major tournament they have once again weakened the case against them being chokers. Even South African fans are finding it difficult to defend against and, more worryingly, are starting to believe it.

!996 at the World Cup in Pakistan and India the Proteas breeze through the  group stage easily disposing of the likes of Pakistan, England and New Zealand, and are looking firm favourites for the trophy. They lose in the quarter final to the West Indies, who had earlier lost to Kenya. One game lost and they’re out.

In England at the 1999 World Cup there was the famous. infamous for South Africans, tie against Australia that knocked the South Africans out at the semi final stage, after all the hard work had been done, and victory seemed certain.

In 2003 in their home World Cup South Africa made a mess of basic math and were eliminated at the group stage thanks to a rain interrupted match against Sri Lanka. If they’d scored one more run they would have been through to the next phase.

This year in the West Indies South Africa completely succumbed to pressure and were blown away by the Aussies.

And last week in the T20 World Cup they meekly bowed out after a tame batting performance against India. They had won their 4 previous matches against the West Indies, where they chased a record score down easily, Bangladesh, England and New Zealand, and had looked like the strongest team in the competition. When it mattered most they came up short. Not only did they capitulate so tamely in that match against India, but they knew that they only needed 126 to make it through to the semi’s and not the target to win the match of 154. They failed to reach either, and just like in 1996 one defeat saw them knocked out.

Of course South Africa are not the only team that seems to find it hard to cross over to a winning team, New Zealand regularly make the semi finals of World Cups, and manage to lose that important game. But the consistency that South Africa manage to shoot themselves in the foot is alarming. They have the talent and ability to be the best in the world, but whether or not they believe it is another matter. They need the self confidence to get over this vital flaw in their make up if they are to realistically hope to win a major title. Over the years they have been ranked number one in ODI’s a number of occasions, raking up the necessary wins to get to that point, yet in a World Cup they always fall short. The 438 game against Australia should have been the moment they buried the choker tag once and for all and launch themselves as the top team in ODI cricket. Sadly nothing changed from there. It should have been the confidence booster they needed, they know they are good enough, even in pressure situations. Yet Australia once again dominated them at the 2007 World Cup.

The coming season will be an important one for South African cricket. They have a good young crop of players coming through, and tours of England and Australia in the not to distant future to test themselves. Firstly they have a confident  and well lead Pakistan to contend with in Pakistan.

The young players need experience and exposure, and that will come over the next 18 months, but they also need to free themselves of the mental hold Australia and the fear of choking has over them. Once they get over that there is no reason why they can not dominate world cricket like Australia have. And love him or hate him, Graeme Smith is the strong character needed to lead them inn this fight.


Kallis resigns as Vice Captain

14/08/2007

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Following his omission from the South African T20 squad Jacues Kallis has stepped down as vice captain of the ODI and Test teams, raising doubts about his future.

Kallis, one of the finest all rounders in history, expressed his disappointment at being left out of the T20 squad when issuing his vice captaincy resignation.

“I have resigned as vice-captain and I’m considering my options with regard to the rest of my career,” Kallis said. “I have been thinking long and hard over the weekend and there is still a lot of emotion involved because I am extremely disappointed. I was very excited about the tournament and hoping to make a huge contribution.

“I feel I have a lot of good cricket left and my best years might even be ahead of me. Ideally I would like to play many more years for my country but this weekend caused me to question my future for the first time.”

The timing of this suggests that Kallis made the decision based on emotion rather then thought, and it is hoped that he changes his mind, particularly by CSA chief executive Gerald Majola.

While there is no doubting his class and ability there has long been debate amongst South African fans about Kallis position in the ODI team, when some regarding his run scoring on the slow side. However, with cricket in general moving towards a more aggressive approach to batting, Kallis has upped his strike rate considerably over the last season or so, and has maintained his position as the linchpin in the Proteas batting line up.

While Kallis has shown a more aggressive streak in ODI’s he still tends to take a few over to play himself in before cutting loose. With this in mind, and the fact that you have less time to play yourself in in T20 cricket, the feeling is that Kallis best role would be opening the innings. Here he could take an over or two to gain a feel for the pitch and bowling, before opening up. However with Graeme Smith, Loots Bosman, AB de Villiers and Gulam Bodi already competing for the two openers births (one really with Smith guaranteed one of the positions) the likelihood of this happening were slim. While Kallis has played 6 T20 games, both internationally and domestically, the likes of Bosman and Bodi have played over 20, giving them far more experience and expertise in this form of the game.

New chairman of selectors, Joubert Strydom, has put forward the taxing schedule over the next 18 months as the reason for Kallis being rested, and not dropped. Over this period South Africa travel to Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, England and Australia, and with this in mind the selectors felt it prudent to give Kallis a longer rest so as to come back refreshed and able to better handle the rigours of being am all rounder and the batting back bone of the team.

Kallis decision, though brash and immature (in terms of timing and not his person) clearly outlines the disappointment he feels at missing out on this inaugural tournament, being hosted by his country. While this can be understood and sympathised with, the rest that he will gain will benefit the test and ODI team, and Kallis himself, bringing a rested, focused and driven Kallis to the field for a tough season ahead. One that ends with a series against Australia. Kallis omission may be the best thing for his game, and the hopes of South Africa’s team in the long run.