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Ken Borland

Botha as relaxed as a holiday-maker

Posted on April 02, 2012 by Ken

Johan Botha on Thursday seemed as relaxed and jovial as someone who was about to go on vacation rather than the man who will captain South Africa in an international match against India in just over 24 hours.

But then it’s difficult for anyone, including the players, to take a match such as Friday’s New Age Friendship Cup T20 encounter with India at the BidVest Wanderers Stadium too seriously.

The Indian players have flown all the way for three hours of cricket, but their focus will be firmly on their IPL preparations, while South Africa have had to leave out several first-choice players who only returned from New Zealand late on Wednesday afternoon.

Such has been the rushed nature of the match that the South African team won’t even have a net session before the game!

“If guys want to, there should be time for them to do some work on stuff tomorrow if they like,” Botha said with a nonchalant grin, before confirming that he had just arrived in Johannesburg himself and had yet to meet with coach Gary Kirsten to discuss either selection or strategy.

But Friday’s game at the Wanderers is important for one reason. For many of the players, it may be their only chance to impress and possibly earn a spot for the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka in September.

“It’s definitely an important game for a lot of the players because there are just eight or nine matches to go before the World T20 and so there are limited opportunities. You don’t want to put extra pressure on any of the guys by saying it’s their only chance, but if one or two players really step up, it will go a long way towards putting their names forward for the final 15 for Sri Lanka,” Botha said.

For others, such as Botha himself, who are reasonably assured of making the trip to Sri Lanka, it is another chance to hone their T20 skills on the international stage.

“Every game is important, you learn from every game. It’s good to be captain again, I’m excited and I enjoy the job, it’s good for my game.

“As captain, you need to try and keep your head and stay one step ahead of the game. You have to trust your decisions,” Botha said.

The off-spinning all-rounder said the most important thing for players like Dane Vilas, Farhaan Behardien, Faf du Plessis, Richard Levi and Morne van Wyk was for them to enjoy the game.

“Hopefully I can put smiles on all the faces and the selectors have put in some young guys, which is exciting and not a bad thing because they’re all really keen. We’ll be going in fresh, although all the guys have been playing T20 so we’ll have clear minds. Often people tend to over-train and over-think the game.

“I hope the young guys can step up, that would be a massive highlight for me and the crowds like to see young, fresh guys playing. The important thing is not to stop the young guys from doing what they usually do, just keep it simple and do the same thing,” Botha said.

The exception to this rule, and to many others, is Jacques Kallis and Botha said it was important for the team to play well to honour their great all-rounder, who is being felicitated by the match.

“We want to play well for Jacques and to have a bit of experience will be good. The experienced guys can lend a helping hand and offer advice on the field,” Botha said.

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