for quality writing

Ken Borland

Lack of experience a large part of the Proteas’ batting woes – Sammons 0

Posted on November 08, 2023 by Ken

Proteas batting coach Justin Sammons says a large part of his team’s batting woes this year is due to their lack of experience because they do not play enough red-ball cricket.

While South Africa already play less Test cricket than most teams – a situation which will worsen markedly in the next couple of years – Cricket South Africa have also cut the number of four-day matches the provinces play to just seven per season due to financial constraints.

It means the country’s top batting talent may only play ten first-class innings a season when the effects of the weather and innings victories are thrown into the equation. Senior Proteas have also been conspicuous by their absence in domestic cricket, which weakens both the batting and bowling standard of the competition.

“What’s very important to realise is that there is no substitute for experience and you only gain that from playing,” Sammons said on Friday in Sydney. “The more you play, the more experience you get and the more lessons you learn.

“As a country, we need to look at how we look after the four-day system going forward. With the way the world is going, it’s a tricky balancing act, but we do need to find a way.

“The bottom line is that the players need to play as much cricket as possible. We’ve got to think out of the box, whether that’s the board or the director of cricket.

“But there has to be a way. We can’t just resign ourselves to T20 dominating and not playing enough first-class cricket. I believe the key for us is playing more four-day cricket,” Sammons said.

While the batting coach admitted that the batsmen were suffering from a lack of confidence, one positive has been the form of wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne, who has proven himself to be a tenacious customer. Verreynne was one of only three Proteas batsmen to average more than 30 (32.12) in 2022, the others being Temba Bavuma (40.07) and Keegan Petersen (38.38).

“The growth in Kyle’s game has been tremendous, both technically and obviously mentally,” Sammons said. “The key I think is that he has figured out his own way of playing at his tempo.

“He has stuck to the tempo that allows him to be successful. He will continue to work on that, but he’s clear in terms of his identity as a cricketer, he understands how to go about scoring runs.

“He’s like Dean Elgar, Jacques Kallis or Graeme Smith in that you knew what you would get from them. I think he has that clear identity of who he is as a cricketer, which goes a long way.

“Following the England series, in tough conditions, our batsmen’s confidence was dented a bit. And then the first Test here the conditions really favoured the bowlers and naturally the confidence was hit even more,” Sammons said.

Contact points and bat angles poor as SA batting folds against English accuracy and skill 0

Posted on October 25, 2022 by Ken

Proteas batting coach Justin Sammons admitted that their contact points and bat-angles could have been better, but he said their dismal batting effort on the third day of the third Test against England at The Oval was mostly due to the accuracy and skill of the English bowlers.

Having lost the toss on the first morning shortly before rain washed out the whole first day’s play and then the second day was cancelled to honour the life and passing of Queen Elizabeth II, South Africa had to bat on an overcast morning and try to counter movement both off the pitch and through the air on Saturday morning.

And England’s pace bowlers, especially Ollie Robinson (14-3-49-5) and Stuart Broad (12.2-1-41-4) exploited the conditions superbly as they bundled the Proteas out for just 118 in 36.2 overs.

“The reality is you have to give credit to the opposition, they bowled really, really well. They bowled in the right area 80% of the time and they consistently asked us questions,” Sammons said.

“Our contact points and bat angles could have been better and that would have given us a better chance, but we might still have nicked the ball anyway.

“We did not give away our wickets through mental errors, it was all about execution and they were better than us today. We need to be decisive in our decision-making and our movements.

“We’ve been missing partnerships, that big one of a hundred-plus that you need. But to do that you need individuals to make their innings count, and unfortunately we haven’t done that,” Sammons admitted.

Contact points refer to where the bat makes contact with the ball, in terms of how far in front of the batsman’s head it is.

England will go into the penultimate day on 154/7, leading by 36. South Africa will be grateful to 22-year-old Marco Jansen, not only for his runs as he top-scored with 30 to lift the Proteas from a parlous 36/6, but also for the four wickets he took with fantastic left-arm swing bowling that pegged the home team back after they had made a flying start to their innings, reaching 84/2 at tea.

“Marco has had a very good game so far. He batted very well in a difficult situation, he showed maturity beyond his years. He has worked really hard on his batting and it was good to see the results today,” Sammons said.

The former Highveld Lions batting coach said his charges will only be better for their tough experiences at The Oval on Saturday.

“These have been extraordinary circumstances, but they will only get stronger for having experiences like these. Of the top eight, only one [Dean Elgar] has played Test cricket in England before.

“So we are inexperienced, but hopefully we reap the rewards of these experiences sooner rather than later. With the ball nipping around, it was not easy, especially with Robinson bowling superb lengths.

“Test cricket is a massive step up and it will be for any first-class batsman anywhere in the world. We have owned that we have not been good enough and I’m confident that sooner rather than later we will reap the rewards for a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes,” Sammons said.

McKenzie back & Maketa & Conrad appointed as chief breeders of talent 0

Posted on September 11, 2020 by Ken

While Neil McKenzie will return to South African cricket as a batting coach, the appointment of Malibongwe Maketa and Shukri Conrad as the chief breeders of talent for the Proteas will arguably have an even greater effect as director of cricket Graeme Smith announced his high performance management team on Thursday.

McKenzie, who played 58 Tests and 64 ODIs for the Proteas, is the new batting lead and while this means he will replace Jacques Kallis as the batting consultant for the national team, his appointment is a full-time one and he will work with batsmen at all levels of the pipeline.

Conrad, as the new SA U19 men’s lead, and Maketa, who is now the full-time South Africa A and National Academy lead, have been given key roles in that pipeline.

Maketa was a Proteas assistant coach from 2017-2019 as well as enjoying a successful time in charge of the Eastern Cape Warriors, so the 39-year-old knows exactly what is required for talented cricketers to progress through the system. He told The Citizen on Thursday that he sees himself as the go-between for the Proteas management and the franchise coaches.

“They are two very important roles and fortunately I’ll have a lot of highly qualified coaches around me as we try to prepare cricketers for both the franchises and the Proteas. The Academy is there to empower the players with skills and I will be assisting them with their game-plans and execution. It’s great to be back in a full-time role with Cricket South Africa.

“I’ll be looking to assist Mark Boucher and Enoch Nkwe in creating a bigger base for the Proteas and my contract runs concurrently with their’s. It’s also about monitoring and identifying talent and lending a hand to the franchise coaches, making sure we are all speaking the same language, from Graeme, Mark and Enoch to the franchises. I intend to get my hands dirty and throw lots of balls,” Maketa said.

Conrad, a vastly-experienced coach who has been heading up the National Academy, will now take over the crucial U19 programme.

“I’ve loved every minute of it at the academy and I know what is required to get to those levels as I now get involved earlier in the pipeline. The U19s are a great challenge because it is such an important stage in development and South African cricket as a whole. The challenge is to ensure we give every young cricketer every opportunity to play and perform.

“Excellence in coaching is critical at provincial and school level, and schools have a massive role to play. I would like to work together with them, private coaches and the Hubs and RPC coaches because we have been in our silos for far too long. Plus we have a scouting system and a wonderful database run by John Bailey and Niels Momberg to ensure nobody falls through the cracks,” Conrad said.

Other appointments confirmed on Thursday were those of Eddie Khoza as the Acting Head of Cricket Pathways, Vincent Barnes as the High-Performance Bowling Lead, Dinesha Devnarain as the Women’s SA U19 and National Academy Head Coach, and Dr Shuaib Manjra as the Chief Medical Officer. Follwing the rather dilly stink created over the appointment of certain consultants, these announcements should be sweet-smelling for the majority of SA cricket fans. They all have considerable amounts to add to the high performance programme.

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.

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Thought of the Day

    Don’t be so busy – even working for God – that you don’t have regular quiet time. Don’t let your activities become more important than your time with the Father. You can be alive ‘for’ God without experiencing the presence and power of the living Christ.

    “Attempting to serve the Lord without the strength of the Holy Spirit results in frustration and ultimate disaster.

    “If your vision of him grows dim, your service will become powerless and ineffective. This will happen if your spiritual reserves are not regularly replenished through prayer and meditation.

    “You must put him first in all your activities. Your service for him must be the result of your intimate knowledge of him. Only when he enjoys priority in all things, can you understand life from his perspective. Putting Christ first in your life and work makes you a more capable servant of God.” – A Shelter From The Storm, Solly Ozrovech

↑ Top