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Ken Borland



Time for the Proteas to be impertinent guests (belatedly) 0

Posted on September 26, 2023 by Ken

The time has come for the Proteas to belatedly be impertinent guests and produce some much-needed defiance when the third and final Test against Australia starts at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the early hours of Wednesday morning (SA time).

The series is gone after the Australians ran roughshod over the Proteas in Brisbane and Melbourne but, astonishingly given how poor their recent form has been, South Africa are still in contention for a place in the World Test Championship final. But victory in Sydney is vital, not just to keep that door open, but also to arrest what has been a humiliating slide in the performance of their batsmen.

While a return to the nastiness of the 2018 series is not wanted, there is a feeling that the Proteas have been too nice, a bit too soft, with their opposition and it is time they stood up and refused to be bullied.

It took one of the youngest players in the squad, 22-year-old Marco Jansen, to voice the necessity for the Proteas to show some mongrel.

“We know everyone is giving their best, but we all need to try and figure out what we can do as an individual for the betterment of the team,” Jansen said on Monday.

“You’re not always going to get hundred partnerships or two batsmen getting centuries so you score more than 500 and win; sometimes it might be about taking five blows to the body or bowling seven consecutive overs.

“Whatever you can do as an individual, sometimes a 70-run partnership can be the matchwinning one. We need to try and recognise those small moments that all add up and can make a big difference.

“We have the skill. It’s just about making a mental shift, a conscious decision to put your hand up and do whatever it takes to influence the team in a positive way,” Jansen said.

A confident Australian team spares nobody and South Africa need to show the same ruthlessness.

“We need to try and see those moments when the opposition is not comfortable, not shy away, and go even harder,” Jansen added. “We have no choice now, we have to take a difficult situation and turn it into a positive.

“We can choose either to run away or front up, which gives you the best chance of performing. It has not been easy on the field, but we will definitely face the challenge.

“We have three Tests until the World Test Championship final and we want to win all three to have the best chance of qualifying.

“So we are not just thinking this is another game and we can just cruise through. There is still a big goal and purpose for us,” Jansen said.

CSA need a batting crisis plan that includes current players & coaches 0

Posted on September 04, 2023 by Ken

A dismal year of batting has come to an end for the Proteas, in which they reached previous lows achieved before only by the Bangladesh team as it first made its way in Test cricket, and Cricket South Africa urgently needs to implement some crisis planning that includes current players and coaches, and those who have recently retired.

South Africa were bowled out for less than 200 in seven successive Test innings, that dismal run only coming to an end in the second innings in Melbourne as a last-wicket stand of 27 between Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje saw them stagger to 204 all out.

Only one team has had worse runs: Bangladesh with 12 scores of less than 200 in a row in 2001/02, just a year after they played their first Test, and eight in a row in 2018.

There were other unwanted statistics: South Africa’s batting average of 24.1 runs-per-wicket in the calendar year is the fourth-worst ever and scoring just two centuries and 19 fifties in 2022 is also amongst the top-three of meagre returns.*

The declining quality of domestic cricket has been fingered by many as being to blame for the poor quality of the Proteas batting, but the only people who will really know if this is true or not are those intimately involved with the local game. Coaches like Robin Peterson and Vinnie Barnes, current players like Dean Elgar, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma and Aiden Markram, former greats like Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, even a youngster like Kyle Verreynne who has just come through the domestic system, should all be in the room and canvassed for their opinions.

It is with reluctance that I say the bean counters at CSA will also have to be involved because financial constraints have undoubtedly caused some of the problems.

We also need to have an urgent look at the standard of our pitches. Surfaces that favour pace bowlers have been pretty stock-standard in South African cricket for a long time and traditionally the country has produced some great fast bowlers.

But our depth is not as good as many believe – the pickings are fairly slim once you go past the fabulous foursome currently playing for the Proteas. One of the reasons for this is that our domestic pitches offer too much assistance – whether through excessive seam movement or inconsistent bounce – and our bowlers don’t learn the skills and game-plans required to do well on the better batting surfaces generally found at international level.

Australia have probably the deepest stocks of quality pace bowlers because they grow up learning their trade on good batting wickets, with pace and bounce that reward good bowling.

And that helps their batsmen, because they are always facing quality attacks at home as they come through the system.

The lack of depth in quality in our domestic attacks also affects the development of our batsmen – they are not tested for long enough periods and dodgy technique is not exposed and punished as it should be. Being able to build an innings and withstand pressure bowling from both ends for long periods are weaknesses we are currently seeing at Test level.

Unfortunately, when it comes to systemic issues, there are no quick fixes. The kneejerk reaction of getting an entirely new top six in is unlikely to work because that removes what little experience there is and the Proteas will start at zero again.

Unless CSA really look after, nurture and prioritise the level below the Proteas, then these unusually low batting returns, which are happening in all three international formats, will become the norm.

It is also going to require CSA undoing some of the policy decisions made in recent years that have weakened the domestic game.

*Stats courtesy of Sampath Bandarupalli of CricInfo

All is not well in The Shark Tank 0

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Ken

All is not well in The Shark Tank down in Durban, with the sudden sacking of head coach Sean Everitt, as inevitable as it was, highlighting the pressures that come with having major outside investors.

Everitt is a coach who has grown up in Sharks rugby and they were a final-minute drop goal away from contesting the semi-finals of the United Rugby Championship last season.

But as soon as former Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell was brought in as director of rugby, it became inevitable that one of them would have to go, and the man with the lesser profile, but the greater institutional knowledge, was always going to be the most vulnerable.

Especially since the Board has shown they have an infatuation with big names, which does not always work when one is trying to put together a winning rugby team. So many of those Springbok stars have only been able to play in patches for the Sharks. It is often, as the Stormers and Bulls have shown, what lies in reserve that determines whether the trophy sits in your cabinet at the end of the season.

Powell was initially signed as the defence coach, but when he was suddenly, and without much clarity, elevated to the position of Director of Rugby, Everitt would have known he was in trouble. The talk in Durban is that it was at the insistence of the American investors.

For those with short memories, Everitt had taken the Sharks to the top of the Super Rugby log, after their overseas tour, when Covid struck in 2020. The lucrative equity deal was signed during the pandemic and the culture and vibrant counter-attacking style that Everitt had been building (similar to John Dobson’s success at the Stormers) began to change.

But before Powell’s arrival, the Sharks had given Leinster a memorable battle in Dublin and then produced an outstanding home win over Glasgow Warriors that lifted them to fourth on the log.

Powell then became the face of the team, in charge of selection and apparently very hands-on in terms of coaching.

The Sharks were then flat in going down to the Bulls in Pretoria, followed by last weekend’s traumatic performance against Cardiff, the worst at Kings Park in a very long time and the first time in 50 years the KZN team have not scored a point at home.

One wonders whether Everitt is, in fact, the right scapegoat?

CSA’s dictatorial treatment of Magala should receive more attention 0

Posted on February 10, 2023 by Ken

Temba Bavuma and the Proteas will no doubt still receive more than their fair share of flak for the next few weeks following their shock exit at the hands of the Netherlands in the T20 World Cup, but it is only right that Cricket South Africa come under scrutiny too for their handling of the domestic game.

The Proteas are the end result of whatever comes through the domestic system, so that pipeline is of vital importance. The first domestic tournament has already come to an end with the Northerns Titans winning the CSA T20 Challenge in Potchefstroom last weekend.

As provincial cricket so often is these days, it was a low-key event, not helped by it all taking place in one little university town. But CSA’s cost-cutting necessities are understandable.

But what is neither understandable nor acceptable is the way CSA impose so many other agendas, other than performance simply being the be-all and end-all, on the provincial teams.

The fact that CSA issued a directive forbidding the Central Gauteng Lions from choosing their star player, Sisanda Magala, simply because he failed their fitness tests, should cause all the provincial CEOs to rise up and reject such interference in their affairs by the mother body.

Magala is the sort of T20 specialist, with his death-bowling skills and hard-hitting batting, who could have made the Lions genuine contenders for a tournament in which they finished fifth, just two points away from the semi-finals.

The Lions missed out on vital promotion/relegation points because they were severely hamstrung by CSA. A player on the fringes of the national team – many believe he should have been in Australia for the World Cup – was also denied the opportunity to further build on his sizeable reputation.

And Magala’s credentials have not just been praised by great fast bowlers such as Dale Steyn and Shaun Pollock; the most ruthless judges of them all, the Indian IPL team owners, clearly rate the 31-year-old very highly too – he was bought for R5.4 million by the Sunrisers Eastern Cape in the SA20 Auction.

Magala’s ‘crime’ was that he cannot run a two-kilometre time trial in eight minutes, 30 seconds, missing out by a few seconds and that was enough for some jobsworth at CSA to ban him from playing in the CSA T20 Challenge. The big lad is actually pretty athletic in the field and never has a problem bowling his four overs and is quite capable of running quick singles. Where running two kilometres applies to batting and bowling I would love to know.

With so much at stake for the provinces – relegation would be a financial disaster for a team like the Lions – the day is surely coming when they challenge any policies imposed on them that stop them from performing at their best.

This over-emphasis on arbitrary fitness tests is surely something that falls under the ambit of director of cricket Enoch Nkwe and he needs to address it.

Not having Magala, one of our best cricketers, playing is also doing a disservice to transformation. In order to reach their targets, the Lions actually had to rope in a club cricketer to replace their star all-rounder on the morning the tournament started.

Magala’s treatment is just yet another example of South African cricket hurting itself. How did forcing him on to the sidelines serve the game or make it better?

Perhaps the day South Africa finally win a cricket world cup is the day when high performance, winning or getting results (call it what you will) is the only focus for our teams.

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