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Ken Borland



Those were the days of struggle & now Benkenstein is back 0

Posted on November 29, 2017 by Ken

 

New Proteas batting coach Dale Benkenstein’s last involvement with the national cricket set-up was 15 years ago, in October 2002, when he played his 23rd and final ODI for South Africa against Bangladesh in Benoni, perhaps a suitably low-key finale to an international playing career that promised much but was never brought to full bloom.

Those were the days when South African cricket was still recovering from the demise and tragic death just four months previously of Hansie Cronje, the much-admired captain who was then exposed as a match-fixer.

Those were also the days when the World Cup curse was really starting to engulf the South African team – Benkenstein was watching from the changeroom as a non-playing squad member when they threw away their 1999 semifinal against Australia in farcical circumstances and was a spectator at Kingsmead in 2003 when the shambles over their understanding of the Duckworth/Lewis calculations knocked them out of the tournament.

Benkenstein, having marked himself out as a natural leader with his captaincy of the SA U19 side, was given the reins of a star-studded Natal team at the age of just 22 and did such a great job that he quickly became the heir apparent to Cronje in the national team.

But those were also the days when there appeared to be a tendency for the existing captain to suppress the development of his closest rival: Under Cronje’s watch, Benkenstein was never really given a fair chance to establish himself in the national team. He would play one or two games and then be left out, or would be shifted up and down the batting order, in a manner that seemed to suggest life was being made as tough as possible for him.

Neil McKenzie, similarly, seemed to struggle to hold down a place while Shaun Pollock was skipper and it was Graeme Smith who finally ended the trend as he actively pushed for McKenzie’s return to the national team.

Benkenstein did have his shortcomings as an international batsman – but almost all batsmen at that level have weaknesses which they work hard to avoid being exposed. But those very flaws help make the 43-year-old an excellent batting coach because he understands the dynamics of technique and the massive importance of the mental side of batting, having wrestled with those issues himself.

The best coaches are often not the former players with the best records, simply because they have empathy for the struggling cricketer, and Graham Ford, who played such a key role in the development of players such as Benkenstein, Pollock, Jonty Rhodes and Lance Klusener at Natal, is the prime example of that.

Benkenstein and the new Proteas head coach, Ottis Gibson, are former team-mates at Durham, the English county that was only elevated into top-level cricket in 1992, and it was the arrival of the Natal captain that ended years of disappointment and elevated them into a force in the UK. So the West Indian is well aware of his new batting coach’s inspirational qualities, and he and Benkenstein added 315 for the seventh wicket in 2006 to avoid relegation. Gibson played a major role with the ball in the trophies won thereafter.

Given that South Africa’s World Cup struggles are symptomatic of muddled mental skills at key times, the arrival of one of the clearest thinkers on the game can only be a positive.

But one hopes that the skills of McKenzie, another ex-Protea who brings immense value to the changeroom, will not be lost to South African cricket now that Benkenstein has taken his place in the national set-up.

The appointment of Malibongwe Maketa as the assistant coach is also pleasing as the development of Black African coaches is vital if the transformation of South African cricket is to progress, but one obviously feels for Geoff Toyana, the Highveld Lions coach who seemed certain to be involved with the national team in some capacity.

The acquisition of a few more domestic trophies will certainly keep Toyana’s name in the conversation to succeed Gibson, however.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20171125/282325385282186

Most daunting journey of all for well-travelled McLaren 0

Posted on November 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Ryan McLaren has travelled many miles in his cricket career but he is about to embark on his most daunting journey of all as the probable replacement for Jacques Kallis in South Africa’s Test side.

The 30-year-old has gone from being born into a famous Kimberley family through Grey College in Bloemfontein, stints as a Kolpak player in English county cricket for Kent and Middlesex, three IPL teams and on to play for South Africa.

Although the national selectors named a 15-man squad yesterday to take on Australia in the three-Test series next month, McLaren is the favourite to replace Kallis, coming in at number seven and providing the team with a fourth seamer.

National selection convenor Andrew Hudson spoke of “staying with the brand of cricket that has brought us such success” and that means a fourth seamer will be an integral part of South Africa’s game plan, which involves unrelenting pressure on the opposition.

But, as coach Russell Domingo pointed out, with no Kallis, having a fourth seamer means either dropping a batsman or not playing a spinner.

“We have to do away with the luxury of having seven specialist batsmen. Number seven will now probably be an all-rounder or a spinner.

“It’s very difficult to have seven batsmen, four seamers and a spinner. Something has to give, and I do like to have a spinner because it gives the team a lot more balance,” Domingo said yesterday.

It won’t of course be a Test debut for McLaren because he has appeared for South Africa in the ultimate version of the game before – against England at the Wanderers four years ago.

McLaren bowled tidily as part of a five-prong seam attack that ran rampant over England, dismissing them for just 180 and 169 as South Africa romped to victory by an innings and 74 runs to level the series. The left-handed batsman also scored 33 not out coming in at number eight.

Wayne Parnell also made his debut in that match and has also been included in the squad to play the Aussies. Although Domingo said he loved the 140km/h pace and left-arm variation that Parnell brings to the attack, McLaren’s greater consistency – he could do the holding role alongside Steyn, Morkel and Philander very well – and better ability with the bat should see him get the nod.

McLaren has the experience of already playing 40 ODIs and 10 T20s for South Africa and has become an integral part of the 50-over side in the last year. He’s a genuine all-rounder: In 103 first-class matches he has scored 3860 runs at an average of 30 and has taken 329 wickets at 25.47.

McLaren said he has no delusions of stepping into Kallis’s boots but is also confident that he can perform the role the national team requires of him.

“I’ve pretty much made peace with the fact that you can’t make comparisons between myself and Jacques. There’s only been one Jacques Kallis and there will only ever be one.

“So I’m just going to focus on the role I have to perform, which is batting seven and bowling second-change, which is pretty much what I’ve been doing most of my career.

“As an all-rounder, there’s always the physical demands of contributing in both disciplines, but it’s nothing new for me because I’ve been doing it for the Knights for many years – bowling 20 or 25 overs a day and batting.

“I will take some confidence from how I’ve performed well in ODI cricket in the last year, but Test cricket is a totally different game, it’s where every cricketer wants to be measured. And there’s no greater test than playing against Australia, so I’m excited for the challenge,” McLaren said.

The absence of Kallis will lead to another change in the batting order, with Domingo confirming that Faf du Plessis would be promoted to the number four spot, the place where greats such as Graeme Pollock, Sachin Tendulkar, Wally Hammond and Javed Miandad batted.

“It’s no state secret, Faf is the guy we have earmarked for number four. He made a big hundred at number four to save a Test recently and he bats there at franchise level. He’s a suitable replacement,” Domingo said.

Robin Peterson, the left-arm orthodox incumbent, is the only specialist spinner in the squad, but Hudson said the selection certainly did not mark the end of Imran Tahir’s Test career.

“Robbie P has put in some good performances lately and he did well in Perth at the back end of the last tour to Australia. He fits in with the style of cricket we want to play.

“But we know Imran Tahir can bowl with variety and an attacking leg-spinner on a turning pitch is still an option for us because we play a lot of cricket in the sub-continent. We certainly are not going past Imran,” Hudson said.

Domingo suggested that the pitches for the three Tests – in Centurion, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town – will favour the quick bowlers, setting up the most tantalising pace war between the two best fast bowling attacks in world cricket.

“We would like pitches that assist our bowlers. Our batsmen are well-versed in South African conditions, whereas in Australia the pitches are more in favour of the batsmen. In South Africa they favour the fast bowlers more and our batsmen are used to adapting to that,” the coach said.

Squad – Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell, Thami Tsolekile, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Rory Kleinveldt.

*Left-arm paceman Beuran Hendricks and off-spinner Simon Harmer will practice with the squad for the sake of preparation against Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon. 

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2014-01-30-ryan-mclaren-his-own-man-not-stepping-into-kallis-shoes/#.WfmzAFuCzIU

It was an unpromising start … but Boucher has flourished in new role as coach 0

Posted on May 31, 2017 by Ken

 

As a player, Mark Boucher showed many times that he was a difficult man to rattle, a tenacious character who was at his best when his back was against the wall. But even he was shaken by the start to his coaching career.

Due to a prior commitment to play golf in the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, Boucher was not actually at SuperSport Park when the Titans began their competitive season with a four-day game against the Knights. It started well enough with the Titans securing a 113-run first-innings lead on the opening day.

Boucher was keeping a regular eye on proceedings via his mobile phone and was on the 14th tee box at Carnoustie, rated one of the nastiest courses in the world with a particularly tough stretch of closing holes, when he checked the latest score on the second day of the Sunfoil Series match.

The Titans had been bowled out for 57, their lowest score ever, and Boucher had to phone a friend to check that the extraordinary collapse was, in fact, real.

“On 14, 15, 16 and 17, I hit all my tee shots out of bounds. But I guess it’s one of those things that happens in cricket; the other day the Bangalore Royal Challengers were bowled out for just 49 with Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle in their line-up.

“But it wasn’t great to see and I knew the only way the players would really get better is by being very honest about it. But we lost the next game as well, another poor performance, so we had to work really hard at practice and we won the next two games really well, both by an innings, and that was the turnaround,” Boucher told Saturday Citizen.

From the unpromising beginnings of that spluttering start, the Titans dominated the rest of the season. They only just failed to repair the damage of those first two Sunfoil Series losses, finishing only 1.78 points behind the Knights, but claimed the CSA T20 Challenge and Momentum One-Day Cup in convincing fashion.

Boucher modestly suggests he had luxury sedans to deal with in terms of the players at his disposal, but the way he has worked with cricketers from throughout the spectrum – seasoned former internationals, current Proteas, exciting youngsters who have pushed themselves to the brink of international cricket, and those journeymen who are the stalwarts of a team – as well as the media and administrators, has been highly impressive.

“The Titans always had a very successful set-up, the culture was very strong, and I always looked up to them as a player. They’ve had years of good discipline and a good team ethic.

“And they knew how to win. So it was just a case of trying to keep that culture and adding my knowledge. It would be difficult not to be successful with all that talent,” the 40-year-old said.

But he has handled the challenges of balancing a team with the Black players and keeping the left-out White players happy extremely well.

“I knew it would be a challenge, but I’ve enjoyed it. The emphasis has been on team, there are a lot of stars and great players here, but team is what makes it tick. A lot of players who would play every game with the other franchises have had to sit out and in the limited-overs finals Shaun von Berg and David Wiese had to miss out, which was really hard because they both had very good seasons. But they made good with the time they had,” Boucher said.

The nuggety wicketkeeper/batsman had an inspirational effect on his Proteas team-mates and it seems those qualities have transferred to his new career as a coach.

“Not every good player becomes a good coach but I have always enjoyed working with players. Mickey Arthur said I should go help the bowlers with their batting so they could stick around with me in the lower-order, and I spent a lot of time giving Paul Harris, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn short balls from the bowling machine. They didn’t particularly like it, but it worked!

“So I think there is a bit of that mould in me, but I’m a completely different coach to how I was as a player. I don’t mind using harsh words, but I try to be fair. I had so many coaches in my playing days so my attitude is ‘what would I have liked as a player in this situation?’,” Boucher said.

Surprisingly, he finds the white-knuckle moments the hardest.

“My big challenge is dealing with pressure, it’s twice as bad as the coach because you can’t do anything about it out in the middle! So I have to look in the mirror and tell myself I need to calm down because the players can feed off that. I’m still a young coach and I’m still learning.”

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170520/282497183600083

Ackers deserves enormous credit & support 0

Posted on May 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Johan Ackermann deserves enormous credit for the way he has transformed the Lions team over the last five years but he also deserves the public’s support for the tough decision he has made to further his career overseas with Gloucester.

Coaches always have a shelf-life with a team and guys like Alex Ferguson or Ian McIntosh staying for many years at one club are the exception rather than the rule. Ackermann has been the provider of so much to the Lions – rebuilding their culture after their morale was shattered during the John Mitchell years; up-skilling them such that they now lead the way in South Africa when it comes to the most progressive brand of rugby; helping to build Springboks who will surely do the country proud if trusted by Allister Coetzee in future; and giving them steel, not only up front amongst their highly impressive pack but also in the way they are now able to win the tight games, as they did against the Sharks last weekend.

So who can begrudge Ackers the chance to advance his own career a bit?

There is no doubt the 46-year-old would never be wrenching himself away from his Lions family and the Ellis Park supporters – the way he broke down while making the announcement of his departure makes this clear – unless he believed a move was essential to further his own highly-promising coaching career.

Ackermann has rightly been spoken of as a future Springbok coach, but there is no top-level international coach at the moment who has been employed in just one country. Steve Hansen coached Wales before joining the All Blacks staff; Eddie Jones was involved with the Australian, Japanese and South African sides before rejuvenating England; Michael Cheika coached Leinster and Stade Francais before getting the Wallabies job; Joe Schmidt is a Kiwi who coached in France before taking over Ireland, and Scotland coach Vern Cotter has the same story.

As brilliant as Ackermann has been, he has no real experience outside of coaching the Lions to a Super Rugby final and one Currie Cup crown. It can only be good for South African rugby that one of its most promising coaches spreads his wings and enjoys new horizons.

There also should be no panic at Ellis Park with the departure of their much-loved coach. As far as a replacement goes – the successor will take charge for the Currie Cup later this year – there is no need for the Lions to look further than what they already have.

The fact that the Lions have someone like the highly-rated Swys de Bruin – who has done well as a head coach before with Griquas and will undoubtedly build on the legacy of the last five years, providing great continuity – means president Kevin de Klerk and CEO Rudolf Straeuli, who have both also played key roles in the Lions’ resurgence, can kip easy when it comes to Ackermann’s successor.

Their structures are clearly in good nick – part of the wonderful legacy Ackermann has left – with both their U19 and U21 teams winning their respective provincial championships last year, so if someone has to move up from that level it should not be so high an elevation as to cause a ricked neck.

In fact, Straeuli used the terms “continuity” and “stability” several times while responding to questions about the road forward for the Lions, so it is not unreasonable to expect De Bruin, JP Ferreira (defence) and Ivan van Rooyen (conditioning) will continue in their roles and have more responsibility.

For those who believe Ackermann has turned his back on the Springbok coaching job, it seems clear that both Allister Coetzee and Rassie Erasmus are in his way for the foreseeable future.

The SA A job is an indication that he is somewhere on Saru’s radar, and he is still willing to coach the second-stringers when SuperRugby breaks for the mid-year internationals, but new challenges and experiences await overseas and it is exciting to think just how good a coach Ackermann will be when he returns to these shores.

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170408/282621737571662

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