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Ken Borland



Glorious day for AB at SCG bucks trend for SA captains at World Cup 0

Posted on September 15, 2015 by Ken

 

South African captains have generally been through the mill at World Cups – the deep pain of Graeme Smith in 2011, Shaun Pollock’s stunned expression in 2003, Hansie Cronje’s tears at Edgbaston in 1999 are all still vivid memories – so it was wonderful to see AB de Villiers enjoy a glorious day at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday.

Just five weeks after lashing 149 off 44 balls against the West Indies at the Wanderers – his 31-ball century being the fastest in ODI history – De Villiers made 162 not out off 66 deliveries to destroy the same side at another great cathedral of the game.

In the process, the South African captain reached 150 off a record 64 balls, and De Villiers now holds the records for the fastest 50, century and 150 in ODI history, sealing his status as one of the greatest batsmen to have ever played limited-overs cricket.

The Sydney Cricket Ground rose as one for De Villiers after one of the most scintillating displays of batting ever seen on the global stage, and the likeable 31-year-old now has a beautiful World Cup memory to cherish, replacing the nasty scenes of 2011 when New Zealand substitute Kyle Mills was shouting in his face after a mix up with Faf du Plessis accelerated a South African collapse.

In terms of batting excellence, De Villiers’ innings ticked all the boxes.

He came in under pressure with South Africa having lost both set batsmen, Hashim Amla and Du Plessis, for solid half-centuries in the space of three deliveries from Chris Gayle. De Villiers weathered that storm and was able to rotate the strike for the impressive Rilee Rossouw to capitalise on his own brisk start.

It was only once Rossouw had been dismissed – for a momentum-changing 61 off 39 balls – that De Villiers really took the game away from the West Indies.

There was tremendous skill, innovation, some brute force, wonderful placement and brilliant thinking in De Villiers’ innings. Probably the most impressive feature of his batting is the amount of time he has, even against the quick bowlers, to get any delivery away to the area he has pre-identified as a scoring region.

To say that De Villiers has a tremendous eye for the ball is a bit like saying Imran Tahir (South Africa’s best bowler in the tournament) likes to acknowledge taking a wicket with some sort of celebration; combine that with quick feet, lovely wrists, superb timing and placement, plus tactical nous, and bowling to AB becomes a nightmare for even the best bowlers.

For me, there are probably two more things I’d like to see AB de Villiers do.

One is obviously play the match-winning innings in the World Cup final.

For the other, I’m going to dig up the legend of Barry Richards, arguably the greatest South African batsman ever.

The destructive power of Graeme Pollock, the prolific elegance of Jacques Kallis and the silky skills of Hashim Amla all feature in that debate, but for sheer brilliance in being able to fashion any stroke for any ball, Richards and De Villiers probably come out tops.

In the days of Richards, there was no international cricket for South Africans and the club game was of a very high standard, with provincial players in action most of the time. The legend goes that Richards, bored of the humdrum challenges of plundering hundreds, sometimes used to make it more interesting by only using the side of the bat. And the pitches were generally quite juicy in Natal club cricket.

On one famous occasion at the Collegians Club in Pietermaritzburg, Richards used the side of the bat for an over bowled with the new ball by Pat Trimborn, who played four Tests for South Africa!

Given the extraordinary brilliance of De Villiers, perhaps he should take on the bowlers with only the side of the bat just to even the contest a bit!

 

Can the Springboks use ProteaFire? 0

Posted on November 12, 2014 by Ken

The Springboks versus All Blacks rugby Test at Ellis Park last weekend counted as one of the greatest sports events I have been to and I felt immensely proud not just because our national rugby team won, but also because of the way they played and the way they carried themselves after the long-awaited triumph over their greatest rivals.

Even if one is not impressed by the way New Zealand and South Africa are steering rugby in a bright new direction of high-tempo play, the wonderful spirit shown between the two teams and the obviously high respect they hold each other in, must gladden the heart of all who love sport for the character-building effects it can have.

The wonderful gesture made by the All Blacks in Wellington when Richie McCaw handed over gifts to Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers for playing their 100th Tests will live long in the memory. The fact that nothing of that sort happened in Australia probably says more about the special relationship between the Springboks and All Blacks rather than any deficiencies on the Wallabies’ part.

But if the Springboks are going to win over even more hearts and minds – it is clear that still not everyone in South Africa believes they represent them – then perhaps they should take a leaf out of the book of their cricket counterparts who launched their ProteaFire campaign this week to some fanfare.

A huge part of the Proteas’ success in recent years has been due to the calibre of people in the team – the likes of Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn, Ryan McLaren, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are all fantastic human beings – and the Springboks also have some fantastic leaders of men in their ranks, Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield, Tendai Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen springing readily to mind.

Rugby will be facing their own World Cup challenge next year, but they will also be tested off the field with sponsors cutting back and transformation issues still bedevilling them.

Whether ProteaFire will help the cricketers finally win their World Cup remains to be seen but what is certain is that most of the population will be firmly behind them.

ProteaFire emphasises the importance of putting the team ahead of the individual and the concept of Ubuntu is a key part of Graeme Smith’s vision that started in 2007. Cricket is often, because of its tradition of statistics, a very individual game and one would have thought rugby, perhaps the greatest of team sports, would have been quicker to implement this sort of mission statement of what playing for the national side really means.

For the cricketers, their diversity will be their strength and rugby probably isn’t quite there yet.

Another important aspect of ProteaFire is that it is almost a contract the national team have signed with their supporters in terms of what is expected of them, on and off the field. As Hashim Amla pointed out, this does not mean treating players like babies.

“On the field, emotions can run high and nobody’s perfect. It’s not about having 15 saints, everybody’s different and it’s about getting the strengths of all 15 players together and dealing with any fallouts,” Amla said.

One cannot help but come to the conclusion that the current turmoil wreaking havoc in English cricket is born out of their failure to deal properly with issues of team culture and identity.

Kevin Pietersen can be a brat, but there have been difficult cricketers before who have been allowed to enjoy the middle of the spotlight while still contributing to the team success.

Last Saturday night at Ellis Park and Thursday night in the SuperSport studios were two proud evenings because it showed South African sports teams are getting it right.

Smith confident SA can break their duck at World Cup 0

Posted on October 09, 2014 by Ken

The actual ICC Cricket World Cup is busy touring South Africa at the moment and nobody should need reminding that the number of Proteas’ titles in that prestigious competition stands at zero, least of all Graeme Smith.

But the former captain is confident that South Africa have the players to finally achieve that breakthrough triumph because many of the boxes required for glory have or will be ticked once the World Cup starts in Australia and New Zealand in mid-February.

“I was very blessed to go to three World Cups, but I’m very excited for this World Cup. The team is shaping up nicely and for the first time in a long time we’ll be playing in conditions that we actually like.

“There’s a great balance to the batting unit, the top five is really outstanding and can win games, they’re dynamic and can chase or set big scores.

“The bowling is attacking and can take wickets, which is very important with the current rules. There’s a really good feeling and buzz around the team and the core is there. AB de Villiers has had some great results, he’s pretty relaxed as a captain, I hear he’s doing a super job and the confidence will be good,” Smith said after a photoshoot with the World Cup trophy.

Amongst the issues that do concern Smith are the lengthy interludes between games.

“It’s a long tournament and there’s always a period when you seem to just sit around for two weeks. It helps though that it’ll be in Australia, previously we got caught with two weeks in Bangladesh [2011] and two weeks in Guyana [2007]. It’s important to stay fresh and in it mentally, and momentum is huge, you don’t want anything to stop that. You will also need to overcome the odd tough game, that’s when you need one or two players to pull you through,” Smith said.

There is consensus that South Africa’s death bowling is another issue and Smith said bowlers needed to prepare mentally for that challenge.

“Death bowling is always key and everyone in the seam attack must be able to contribute. Each player needs to grow mentally in that space, so you want them to have been there before, they need to be exposed to powerplays and death overs.

“if there’s reverse-swing, then going into the blockhole makes sense, but at places like the Wanderers, if you miss the yorker by one centimetre, you’re gone, plus guys lap so well now. It’s about how to block the field, give the batsman one and protect your over. Bowlers need to spend as much time as possible practising those thought processes, the tactics of death bowling,” Smith said.

The two-time World Cup captain’s final words for the 15 lucky men going to Australasia is to enjoy themselves.

“They should be excited as players, it’s a great occasion and all teams aspire to play in any World Cup. Only a select few have won it, especially since Australia dominated for a large period,” Smith said.

 

Lack of opportunity for middle-order soured Zim successes – Smith 0

Posted on September 18, 2014 by Ken

Former captain Graeme Smith is highly impressed by the recent performances of the South African one-day side, but believes the success in the Zimbabwe triangular series was soured by the lack of opportunity given to the middle-order.

JP Duminy scored 51 in one innings but only managed another 51 runs in his other four innings, two of which were undefeated.

David Miller could only score 13 runs in three brief innings, Ryan McLaren batted twice for 30 runs and Rilee Rossouw also only batted twice, scoring a duck and 36.

“They’ve really done well and for me winning in Sri Lanka was the big one. Zimbabwe was great for their confidence. Australia were a bit undercooked, but there was needle in those games and it’s always lekker to beat them. We’re beating them more than ever before, here, over there and in other places.

“Our top five can really win games and set a platform, but I worry a bit about our middle-order. It’s a really difficult place to bat in and I think we need to give more opportunity to those guys, get them batting up the order in warm-up games or the softer matches. They must get batting, that will get them confidence and it will change the whole dynamic of the side,” Smith told The Pretoria News.

Smith said he felt particularly sorry for Miller, who either came in to bat with very few deliveries remaining or with the top-order having fallen cheaply.

“We know his ability and I think he should have been pushed up the order against Zimbabwe. That’s what should happen in the softer games. A guy like him needs both clarity in terms of his role and confidence,” South Africa’s captain in a record 149 ODIs said.

Smith also backed leg-spinner Imran Tahir as the man who will probably be the first-choice spinner for the World Cup early next year in Australia and New Zealand.

“I think Imran is a terrific short-form bowler, he picks up wickets and he’s difficult to attack because he turns the ball both ways. A finger spinner, if he doesn’t get big turn, can be lined up and go for 50 or 60 runs without the batsmen taking any risks. The smaller boundaries in New Zealand mean you probably won’t play two specialist spinners there, especially since JP Duminy is basically a frontline bowler now.

“Imran is the sort of bowler who can create things, he’s a partnership breaker and he takes pressure off the seamers. If you don’t have a spinner taking wickets then the seamers can be over-bowled and then they’re tired at the death,” Smith said.

The recently-retired left-hander said the need for wicket-taking bowlers remained a strong conviction of his.

“You need impact bowlers, both spinners and pacemen. In one-day cricket, if you can have game-changers with the ball then it makes a big difference.”

Smith also said the role of the selectors was crucial in getting the balance of the side right for the World Cup.

“A lot of the time, the balance of the side is about gut feel. But the selectors need to create consistency in the build-up to the World Cup. Those last two or three places in the squad are also crucial and the management have to have confidence in them if they decide to play the extra batsman or extra bowler. You don’t want things to suddenly start changing once you’re at the World Cup,” Smith warned.

“But we’ll obviously feel more at home in the conditions in New Zealand and Australia. Eighty percent of the time now you play in sub-continental conditions, but this World Cup will suit our style of play. Spinners will still be effective because the boundaries are big, so rotating the strike is key,” Smith said.

The 33-year-old is now a full-time employee of major cricket sponsors Momentum, marking the start of his business career and confirming that he has turned down the approaches of the Big Bash in Australia and of his own Cape Cobras side to play in the Champions League.

“My relationship with Momentum started back in 2003 and it’s a great place to start my business life. I’ll also be doing work with Cricket South Africa on the cultural identity of the Proteas, which is something very close to my heart, as well as some leadership consulting, public speaking, that sort of thing. So I won’t be going to the Big Bash to play for Perth Scorchers or to the Champions League with the Cobras,” Smith confirmed.

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  • Thought of the Day

    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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