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Ken Borland

Australia’s unexpected collapse a warning to SA cricket 0

Posted on November 21, 2016 by Ken


Australia’s rapid implosion as a Test team, going from the number one ranked side in August to their current shambles, was unexpected but there have been warning signs in their cricket for a while and they are similar to the problems South African rugby is experiencing at the moment.

A focus on chasing money and the commercial aspects of the game has been allowed to mar the systems and structures that were in place to ensure that Australia’s Test team – as well as, at times, the Springboks – were always at the pinnacle of the game.

The Big Bash T20 league is obviously a wonderful, exciting occasion in the Australian sporting calendar, but it seems it has become the most important part of the cricket season, Cricket Australia’s priority and something that is pushing everything else on to the periphery.

There was a time that the four-day Sheffield Shield competition was Australia’s premier domestic tournament and the envy of the world; nowadays it seems almost an afterthought and pace bowlers are pulled out of games midway through by national team management using medical protocols that have little basis in actual cricketing wisdom.

The most amazing example of T20 taking over to the detriment of everything else Down Under will come in February. Six days before Australia play the first Test against India in Pune, starting what is an incredibly daunting tour for a struggling team, a three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka starts in Melbourne.

International cricket was always about the best from each country playing against each other, but either Australia send a second-string team to India or their reserves will be playing in the T20 series. The last T20 will be played the night before the first Test starts!

Some of the Australian media were understandably outraged by the scheduling and, in the wake of the series loss to the magnificent Proteas, they have given their team and administrators both barrels and deservedly so.

Other Australian media have, however, resorted to blame-shifting and a video focusing on South African captain Faf du Plessis doing two perfectly legal things – eating a sweet on the field and using his saliva to shine the ball – albeit at the same time, was always going to go viral and attract the interest of the International Cricket Council.

But if they do punish Du Plessis, what are they going to do about players using sunscreen and then wiping their sweat on the ball? How about the ubiquitous Australian practice of chewing gum on the field, that is also like steroids for saliva.

South African cricket is currently basking in a glorious, phenomenal third successive series win in Australia that is going to be remembered for a long time because of the resilience and team unity they have shown, especially in the absence of big guns AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn.

But we also need to be wary that our administrators aren’t going to go down the same route as their Australian counterparts; there have been enough instances of South African sporting administrators chasing the bucks instead of what is going to be best for the game for us to be cautious.

Which is why, when I see the Proteas and Sri Lanka will be playing the third Test in Johannesburg from January 12-15, and the two Gauteng teams, the Titans and the Lions, will be playing a potentially crucial Sunfoil Series game at exactly the same time, I wonder if our four-day cricket is also going to be neglected, leading to the demise of our wonderful Test side?

Surely it can’t be too hard for the schedulers to say: “There’s going to be a Test in Johannesburg that week, let’s make sure that both Gauteng teams are playing away from home?”

Let the Australian malaise be a warning to us, no matter how smug and happy we are currently feeling.

Walter sees quality depth & no extra pressure for Titans 0

Posted on July 01, 2014 by Ken

While some critics are warning that Cricket South Africa’s new increased “targets” for players of colour – and specifically Black Africans – will curdle the milk of domestic cricket, Unlimited Titans coach Rob Walter says the new quotas won’t place him under extra pressure when it comes to selection in the season ahead.

Franchises will now be required to field at least five players of colour in all competitions, two of whom must be Black Africans, an increase of one for 2014/15.

The Titans have only contracted three Black Africans – pacemen Junior Dala and Ethy Mbhalati and wicketkeeper/batsman Mangaliso Mosehle – for next season, alongside six other players of colour – Qaasim Adams, Farhaan Behardien, Henry Davids, Eden Links, Rowan Richards and Tabraiz Shamsi.

“We have quality depth in all positions and we’re not sitting around thinking we’re going to be under pressure because of the new requirements. In fact we have to find a way of playing all these guys. A lot of our players of colour are actually pushing for places in the national side and they’re all there entirely on merit,” Walter said at the weekend during the launch of the new IXU brand of cricket equipment, for which he is an ambassador.

While there will obviously be more pressure on Mosehle, Mbhalati and Dala to perform, Walter said he thinks the added expectation will bring out the best in them.

“I have massive faith in Mangi. He’s had two stand-out 50-over campaigns and I’ve seen him make hundreds. In four-day cricket, he fell short last season, but I absolutely believe that he can score runs at that level.

“The pressure might actually be good for him, he’s occupying a hugely important position in four-day cricket. That number six/seven position has been key to many of the Proteas’ successes in recent years.

“Junior Dala has worked unbelievably hard in the off season after not having the best start to his Titans’ career, but we saw flashes of what he can do. He can bowl quickly and he’s clearly got something. Ethy was always going to be around anyway for another season, but having Junior in the squad has pushed him and he’s been working very hard,” Walter said.

With David Wiese, Marchant de Lange and Richards also being key bowlers, and JP de Villiers and Vincent Moore in reserve, Walter is confident the Titans have the attack to win trophies next season, but he is hoping his senior batsmen dish up many more runs than in 2013/14.

“I think Rowan is going to do great things, he has pace and he’s a left-hander, it was just sad that he was injured last season; Marchant is doing nicely and he delivered some real heat when he played at the end of last season; and David was unbelievable with the new ball and showed real skill. So all of a sudden the seam attack looks very good, plus JP has come a long way and Vince Moore bowled particularly well in the four games he played.

“But first and foremost what we need to improve is the performances of our senior players. We’ve added Dean Elgar, who will be key as another senior player, but the guys already there – Davids, Behardien, Albie Morkel, Kuhn – they’ve been performing year in, year out and I’ll be looking to them to really deliver,” Walter said.

Apart from those established batsmen, there is real talent waiting in the wings in Graeme van Buuren, Cobus Pienaar, Adams, Theunis de Bruyn and Ernest Kemm, and that meant there was cover available should there be injuries, national call-ups or loss of form.

“The great thing is that if we lose a player, it’s not the end of the world. The young guys have been performing, showing no fear and just revelling in the opportunity to play. Graeme was a standout batsman when it came to playing under pressure and that’s huge, a really great thing. Theunis showed in his first outing that he’s ready for franchise cricket and Ernest made a fifty in his second game. So depth is not something I’m worried about,” Walter said.

The Titans started training for the new season on May 1 and have been working hard on improving their skills.

“We fell short on our ability to deliver our skills so we started training earlier and have been doing that every day,” Walter said.

And the Titans will start playing competitive cricket as early as August, with the eKasi Challenge against the Highveld Lions, two three-day practice games and the Global Softech Sixes and Northerns Bash.

Titans contracted squad 2014/15: Qaasim Adams, Farhaan Behardien, Junior Dala, Henry Davids, Marchant de Lange, JP de Villiers, Heino Kuhn, Eden Links, Ethy Mbhalati, Albie Morkel, Mangaliso Mosehle, Cobus Pienaar, Rowan Richards, Tabraiz Shamsi, Graeme van Buuren (rookie contract), Roelof van der Merwe, Shaun von Berg, David Wiese, Jacques Rudolph (One-Day Cup only). CSA-contracted – Dean Elgar, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Morne Morkel.


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