for quality writing

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

Impossible for the ICC Awards to ignore AB 0

Posted on December 06, 2014 by Ken

AB de Villiers made it impossible for the International Cricket Council’s enumerators who decide on the nominees for their annual awards to ignore him and South Africa’s ODI captain was yesterday duly announced as one of four candidates for the ICC Cricketer of the Year award as well as being shortlisted in the individual one-day international category.

De Villiers will go up against Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson and Sri Lankan run-machines Angelo Mathews and Kumar Sangakkara for the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy that goes to the best cricketer overall between August 26, 2013 and September 17, 2014.

Fellow South Africans Quinton de Kock and Dale Steyn, as well as Indian batting star Virat Kohli, will be his rivals for the ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year award.

Hopefully the judges will also take into account the fact that De Villiers has been keeping wicket exceptionally well while starring with the bat. Scoring 932 runs in 10 Tests at an average of 54.80 and 963 runs in 20 ODIs at an average of over 60 is great work in anyone’s book.

The fiery Johnson enjoyed a phenomenal haul of 59 wickets from his eight Tests in the period under review, three of which were against world number ones South Africa, while Sangakkara gathered 1502 runs from 11 Tests, with four centuries, and Mathews, who took over the Sri Lankan captaincy from Mahela Jayawardene, averaged 92 in Tests and just under 54 in ODIs.

De Kock’s five centuries in ODIs during the qualifying period, including three in a row against India, made him a certainty for the ODI shortlist but how he was not named amongst the four for the Emerging Player of the Year award is a mystery. Instead Kiwis and Englishmen dominate that category, with Jimmy Neesham, Corey Anderson, Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes nominated.

Steyn ended the visits to the crease of 36 batsmen in 16 ODIs and had an economy rate of just 4.32 runs-per-over, and was selected to the ICC Test Team of the Year for a record seventh successive year, while the honour has gone to De Villiers for the fifth time.

De Kock has joined that duo in the ICC ODI XI of the year to give South Africa equal-most representation with India – captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Mohammad Shami.

Amazingly, Hashim Amla has failed to crack the nod for any ICC awards this year.

 

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.

 

Lorgat delivers plenty of good news 0

Posted on March 17, 2014 by Ken

Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat was yesterday not only able to deliver the good news that he has been exonerated of all wrongdoing surrounding his alleged involvement in the media statement criticising ICC governance by their former legal advisor David Becker, but also news of on-going negotiations with Australia and England for more Test cricket against those countries.

The International Cricket Council yesterday announced that they could find no evidence linking Lorgat to Becker’s damning statement and also cleared him of allegedly trying to bribe or threaten journalists in an attempt to withdraw the story.

“Being exonerated is no surprise to me because I knew exactly what I had done and what I had not done, and I knew that I would not fail myself nor cricket in South Africa,” Lorgat said at the Wanderers yesterday.

“But I am gravely disappointed that I was found guilty in the media and a lot of things were said about me even before the investigation began.”

Not much seems capable of taking the former ICC chief executive by surprise and Lorgat also brushed off the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s decision to not stage any of the IPL in South Africa while revealing the prospect of increased Tests against Australia and England.

“We weren’t surprised at all by the BCCI announcement, they want to play the tournament close to home. We were involved in discussions all along and we were informed of the decision before it went public. It made sense to have the first 16 games in the UAE, if they needed longer outside India then maybe we would have featured,” Lorgat said.

“But we never had any plans for the IPL in the financial forecasts. It would have been a windfall, but it’s something we hadn’t bargained for.”

With Lorgat and CSA having a well-publicised falling out with the BCCI last year and India, Australia and England staging a virtual coup to take control of the ICC, the fears that South African cricket would be sidelined don’t seem to be materialising.

Lorgat revealed the success of preliminary negotiations with other boards that would see more Test cricket being played in South Africa.

“We are very keen to play four-Test series against Australia and we’ve gone some way to agreeing to that, although it’s dependent on the calendar. And we are talking to England and have agreed in principle to play a five-Test series in 2015/16. So we’ve already achieved a lot working together since the original ICC proposal, which has already been changed considerably,” Lorgat said.

 



↑ Top