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Ken Borland



Speeding towards the World Cup with an elephant in the dressingroom 0

Posted on June 29, 2017 by Ken

 

Judging by AB de Villiers’ comments after the Champions Trophy fiasco, South Africa could go speeding towards the 2019 World Cup having still not addressed the elephant in the dressingroom which is their continued, inexplicable failure to perform at their best in ICC knockout matches.

The Proteas are scheduled to play just 36 more ODIs before the June 2019 World Cup in England; they have played 36 ODIs since midway through their series in India in October 2015, just to give some perspective as to how quickly time will fly before the next showpiece ICC tournament starts.

And yet De Villiers maintained after the horrible showing against India last weekend that there was no lack of composure and the run outs and batting failures were not due to a mental problem. Given the skill levels of the players involved, it’s difficult to know what else could be the explanation.

It is probably a good thing, though, that the Champions Trophy disaster is still fresh in the minds as CSA begin the process to decide on who will be the Proteas coach that will guide yet another attempt at the elusive holy grail for South African cricket.

Two former Proteas coaches – who were both involved in coaching capacities during India’s memorable 2011 World Cup triumph – in Gary Kirsten and Eric Simons will sit on the five-man committee that will evaluate the applications and both have been outspoken about the problems South African players have in handling the pressures of ICC knockout matches.

It is one of the unwritten laws of sport that the most successful teams are able to shift pressure on to their opposition; sadly for the Proteas, they seem to crush themselves by piling pressure on to their own shoulders. In between ICC events, they are able to play freely and express themselves, at world cups they play totally differently – tentative and fearful cricket. Reading De Villiers’ autobiography, it is clear he has a Moby Dick sized obsession with winning the World Cup, an unhealthy obsession that probably does more harm than good.

The big difference between De Villiers and Virat Kohli is how the Indian captain invariably makes big runs when they are most needed; his 96 not out in the Champions Trophy semi-final was yet another example of that.

Whoever the Proteas coach will be, he needs to be able to free up the players when it comes to the high-pressure situations. The players need to pledge to each other that they will not change their games in knockout matches and it is the captain and coach who have to drive that.

No team plays with a greater burden of expectation than India, and yet Kirsten and Simons were able to get them winning and expressing themselves when they won the World Cup on home soil under immense pressure.

Simons raised some interesting points in the aftermath of the Champions Trophy loss, both in the SuperSport studio and in a subsequent conversation I had with him.

He pointed out that the Proteas never tried to shift the pressure India exerted on them with an excellent display in the field, India were never asked to try anything different.

When I asked him why India are consistently able to handle the pressure and expectation at ICC knockout events, he said he felt it was because their international players had come through a system featuring millions of cricketers so they have spent their entire lives ensuring they are on top of their game, they are always playing under intense scrutiny and, in a developing nation still wracked by poverty, it’s do or die for many of them. Natural selection and survival of the fittest in many ways.

“It’s not just these 11 Proteas players who have had the problem. CSA need to sit down and decide what to do, what do our teams lack? Somehow the players have got to be freed up … we saw them play differently against India. There needs to be a broader conversation about why? The world is asking the question, it’s time we did too,” Simons said.

I have no doubt Simons will bring the same questions to the panel that will decide the coaching situation moving forward.

But the first step in sorting out a problem is admitting you have a problem. As Paddy Upton, who was the mental coach when India, Kirsten and Simons won the 2011 World Cup, has pointed out, it’s part of the South African macho man psyche to never admit our vulnerabilities.

That has to change.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170617/282269550387810

It’s difficult to know what’s eating AB 0

Posted on June 26, 2017 by Ken

 

It’s difficult to know exactly what’s eating AB de Villiers.

It’s not so much the lack of matchwinning performances we have become accustomed to from a true genius – his form has actually been solid, averaging 56 at a strike-rate of 105 in ODIs this year – but more the manner and timing of his dismissals as well as his general demeanour.

Some of his comments dismissing other cricketers have been most unlike a player known for his sportsmanship and generosity, although AB has always had a tendency to speak confidently, as if it will make it come true if he says something enough times with enough conviction.

Since his decision to take a sabbatical from Test cricket, De Villiers has failed to score a century. But are we reading too much into that decision, which was presumably (and hopefully) extremely difficult to make? He did of course suffer a long-term elbow injury – a serious ailment for a batsman – before deciding to ease his workload.

(Interestingly, there is some scientific evidence to suggest the sort of elbow injury De Villiers suffered is seen more often in batsmen under pressure, whether that be due to poor form or the importance of their innings, basically gripping the handle too tightly).

Apart from the elbow injury, the 33-year-old De Villiers, who has always been such a great athlete, has also begun to suffer back problems and now a hamstring niggle, all of which must contribute to the pressure he must feel operating under such expectation at the highest levels of international sport.

The mental pressures are probably greater than the physical workload and De Villiers’ awful strokes to get out in his two Champions Trophy failures are indicative of mental fatigue more than anything else. For a batsman of his quality to slap a wide delivery first ball straight to backward point speaks of the mind being elsewhere.

It’s a controversial precedent that Cricket South Africa have allowed in letting De Villiers miss the crucial Test series in England, but the key question is how are the Proteas management going to get the best out of one of the biggest trumpcards in world cricket through to 2019?

The first piece of the puzzle should be to make Faf du Plessis captain in all formats. Removing the ODI captaincy from De Villiers will no doubt be a great disappointment for someone who is as passionate about representing and leading his country as anyone, but I think the pressures of captaincy are making him sick.

In the field, De Villiers just seems harassed and under pressure, constantly consulting his bowlers and causing the Proteas to have problems with the over-rate police. Counter-intuitively, this all seems to happen while De Villiers sometimes sticks slavishly to plans despite the current situation on the field. Cases in point are the first 10 overs against Sri Lanka, when he did not make a bowling change despite the flood of runs, and the decision to recall the expensive Wayne Parnell just before the rain against Pakistan.

By contrast, Du Plessis just seems a more natural captain and things just seem to be more slick with him at the helm.

By unburdening De Villiers, we will be able to see whether we are dealing with just the vagaries of form or the gradual winding down of a great career.

Let’s not forget, similar questions were being asked of Hashim Amla not that long ago, and he has obviously answered them in the best way possible.

Let’s hope that the best talents of De Villiers will be a part of the Proteas for a long time to come. If that means a lessening of his work-load, wouldn’t it be worth it?

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170610/282372629589258

AB returns to former glories 0

Posted on March 22, 2017 by Ken

 

AB de Villiers batted with all his former panache and authority upon his return to the domestic scene as he steered the Titans to a commanding seven-wicket win with 21.5 overs to spare over the Warriors in their Momentum One-Day Cup match at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Tuesday.

The bonus point win returns the Titans to the top of the standings, leading the Dolphins by four points ahead of the final round of fixtures.

While the Titans will host the fading Cape Cobras at Centurion on Thursday, the KwaZulu-Natalians face the daunting task of beating the Knights with a bonus point in Durban in order to claim first place and a home final. And obviously the Cobras must beat the Titans.

While de Villiers utterly dominated the Warriors attack as he stroked a sublime 75 not out off 62 balls, the Titans were only chasing 148 thanks to the brilliant work of their attack, with another returning international, Chris Morris, leading the way with three for 30 in eight overs.

Morris set the tone as his second ball of the match curved like a bow and bowled Gihahn Cloete for a first-ball duck.

With Morris conceding just nine runs in his first four overs, Lungi Ngidi then put the Warriors further back with a double-strike in the sixth over.

Colin Ingram (4) latched on to a poor, short ball down leg, but swung it in the air to fine leg, where Junior Dala made good ground around the boundary and took a super catch.

Ngidi then produced a beauty four balls later to have Colin Ackermann caught behind for a duck, getting bounce and away movement from an excellent length.

Having won the toss and elected to bat, the Warriors were 18 for three inside the first half-hour, but Jon-Jon Smuts and Yaseen Vallie then added 66 for the fourth wicket. It wasn’t hang-on-to-your-hats breathtakingly quick, coming off 87 deliveries, but it did stop the bleeding.

Smuts, coming off successive centuries, scored 39 before getting a little tickle on a Malusi Siboto delivery that was sliding down leg and being well caught by wicketkeeper Heino Kuhn, and off-spinner Aiden Markram then won a short battle with Lesiba Ngoepe, having him smartly stumped by Kuhn for two.

Morris then returned to deliver another top-class spell of fast swing bowling, Vallie, who had scrapped his way to a dogged 44 off 61 balls, being caught behind and then Kelly Smuts being bowled for a duck as he shouldered arms to a superb delivery to the left-hander from over the wicket, pitching off and then swinging enough to hit the off stump.

The Warriors were a parlous 117 for seven, but Jerry Nqolo added 26 to the total and there was 16 from Andrew Birch before the visitors ran out of luck on 147 all out, Dala claiming two wickets with short balls and Ngidi picking up a third as he finished with fine figures of three for 32 in eight overs.

Wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi was able to build on the pressure created by the pacemen as he squeezed the Warriors batsmen further by bowling his 10 overs for just 28 runs.

The star attraction De Villiers came to the crease with the Warriors still in the game, having just reduced the Titans to 47 for two, Birch striking early by having Jonathan Vandiar caught in the slips for one, and Aya Gqamane then dismissing Kuhn for a busy 23.

De Villiers was dazzling from the outset, hitting his second and third deliveries for sumptuous boundaries and, even though Aiden Markram being bowled by a grubber from Birch for 23 in the next over provided some food for thought, the global superstar just cruised through the rest of the innings.

There were seven fours and a six in his 40-ball fifty, as De Villiers covered the entire map of the Willowmoore Park outfield with strokes of extraordinary placement and timing; Farhaan Behardien but a support act as he made 24 not out in their unbeaten stand of 87 off 94 balls.

De Villiers finished with 75 not out off 62 deliveries, with 10 fours and a six, proving once again that he has more talent in his big toe than most batsmen on their best day.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-cricket/1464011/ab-de-villiers-returns-to-former-glory/

Why such negativity in the season of hope? 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

This is the season of hope and our cricketers have certainly given cause for much optimism for the rest of the summer, and yet there are still people spreading negativity about the game in this country.

It started up again when Keaton Jennings, son of former Transvaal Mean Machine great Ray, made a century on debut for England against India last week. The South African-born expat is 24 years old and has been playing for Durham since 2012.

Following his brilliant 112 in the first innings in Mumbai, the nonsense talk started about Jennings being ignored by the South African system, without honour in his own land, if you like, with “quotas” receiving their normal share of the blame.

Just to set the record straight, young Jennings was the captain of the SA U19 team in 2011 and made his first-class debut for Gauteng later that same year. So Jennings was in the system, playing in the same side as Quinton de Kock at that stage, but to expect him just to waltz into the Highveld Lions team ahead of players like Alviro Petersen, Neil McKenzie, Temba Bavuma, Stephen Cook and Zander de Bruyn would have been naïve.

So Jennings was not denied fair opportunity, he merely made a personal decision, good luck to him, and it in no way reflects badly on Cricket South Africa.

The other bizarre negativity at the moment surrounds AB de Villiers’ selfless decision to give up the Test captaincy.

From being the blue-eyed boy of South African cricket, suddenly certain people are reading all sorts of sinister motives and reasons into De Villiers’ decision. It’s disgraceful that aspersions are now being cast on the honourable Faf du Plessis and his long-time friendship with De Villiers.

The person crying foul the most has been Fanie de Villiers, but then he has had an axe to grind with South African cricket for some time, and is persona non grata around the Proteas so he doesn’t really know what is going on inside that camp.

Sit down Fanie and follow the wise advice that says: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, rather don’t say anything!”

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    James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

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