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Ken Borland

Conrad not the manufacturer of a dramatic new way, but has made brave calls 0

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Ken

New Proteas Test coach Shukri Conrad has made some brave calls for his first series in charge, against the West Indies.

New Proteas Test coach Shukri Conrad is not aiming to be the manufacturer of some dramatic new way of playing five-day cricket, but he has nevertheless made some brave calls as South Africa head into a new era in what most players still consider the pinnacle of the game as they take on the West Indies in the first of a two-match series in Centurion from Tuesday.

Conrad has not only installed a new Test captain in Temba Bavuma, whose predecessor Dean Elgar remains in the team but needs to regain his ability to make tough runs, but also cut a trio of players who would probably have expected to still be involved.

Dropping two of the three leading run-scorers in the series in Australia over the festive season is certainly a tough call if you are Kyle Verreynne, who scored two half-centuries in the three Tests, or Sarel Erwee, whose last Test innings was the dogged 42 not out he scored to help South Africa save the third Test in Sydney.

Lungi Ngidi has also been a regular in the Test team, playing 11 of the 18 Tests in the last two years. He has taken 33 wickets in that time, at an excellent average of just 21.63. Ngidi has also conceded only 3.06 runs-per-over in that time, all of which suggests he plays an important role in the Proteas attack, but Conrad has seemingly gone the bold route of wanting the express pace of uncapped Gerald Coetzee instead.

Heinrich Klaasen and Aiden Markram are the batsmen to benefit from the axing of Verreynne and Erwee. There is no doubting that both are amongst the most talented strokeplayers in the country, but Klaasen has scored just 48 runs in four Test innings, and Markram makes yet another return based on just how damn good he looks whenever he picks up a bat, except when it comes to actually scoring runs at Test level.

Typically of Conrad, who is never afraid to back his big calls, he has already stated that Markram will return to opening the batting alongside Elgar. The new coach is not reinventing how the Proteas play Test cricket, but he is certainly aiming for a more aggressive, positive approach.

Conrad was walking around the SuperSport Park field on Monday morning during the Proteas’ final preparations like a sergeant major, but he is not all bark and bite; he found time to give the no-doubt hurting Elgar an arm around the shoulder and a rub of the neck.

If the 55-year-old Conrad is the equivalent of the Proteas’ chairman of the board, then Bavuma is the new CEO tasked with getting the best out of the staff.

Bavuma is no stranger to international captaincy, of course, having led the Proteas in 17 ODIs and 25 T20s. He is highly-respected by his team-mates for his tactical acumen, technical ability and tenacity.

Bavuma has been no stranger to tough times recently, and he was stressing the need for his team to embrace a fresh start against the West Indies.

“These are exciting times, it’s the start of a new journey and I would like us to start with a clean slate and play the way we want to play,” Bavuma said at Centurion on Monday.

“We have got enough resources in the 15-man squad to adapt to conditions and back up whatever tactics we want to employ. And there are other leaders within the team, guys who have been around for a while, who I can definitely lean on. We just need to ensure we are all speaking the same language.

“The brand of cricket we play is how we want to measure ourselves, but we still need to man up. We know as a batting unit that we need to score the runs, we need to go out and do what we need to do.

“A lot of these guys have won a series against India not long ago when no-one really backed us to do that. I always preach playing together as a team and we don’t want to lose that,” Bavuma said.

Fresh starts almost always involve a positive approach to things, and it seems the Proteas are as concerned with how they go about playing as what they produce. Conrad will have to live or die by his brave choices, and perhaps he will discover that sometimes producing the goods is all that matters, no matter how you look doing it.

Matanzima: A long way back after a double injury blow for a top-class prospect 0

Posted on July 05, 2021 by Ken

Loosehead prop Simphiwe Matanzima has always been considered a top-class prospect by the Bulls, ever since their scouts lured him from Queens College in the Eastern Cape to Pretoria, but a devastating double injury blow has prevented him from making a mark in the new Jake White era.

Now 23 years old, Matanzima made his Bulls senior debut in a Super Rugby derby against the Stormers in 2019. But in the opening round of the 2020 southern hemisphere competition he suffered a dislocated shoulder and then, when he made his return to training, he tore his achilles tendon last July.

So it has been a long way back for Matanzima and he finally got back on the field for the Bulls in their Currie Cup match against Western Province last weekend, putting in a lively display.

“I was out for 15 months and I’m just glad I’m done with rehab. I played one club game for Naka Bulle and I’m pleased that my first game back for the Bulls is now out the way. I was a bit rusty although I’ve been scrumming for the last couple of months, but I felt like myself and now I’m just looking forward to the rest of the season.

“Coming back was more of a mental challenge than physical because there’s a lot you can’t do and you’re alone a lot of the time. And it was a very serious injury so you worry that things might go wrong. You’ve just got to allow yourself to work through those emotions.

“It’s just a different level playing for the Bulls and it was against a good Western Province pack. With one squad in Italy and us only training together for a week, it was always going to be tough for us but we fought well. Jake White and Russell Winter have had a massive impact and it’s great learning from them. It’s never nice watching from the outside and it’s awesome to be back in the team now,” Matanzima said on Wednesday.

Since he suffered those injuries, the Bulls have signed Jacques van Rooyen, an old bull who has done really well on both sides of the scrum, and Gerhard Steenekamp has also made a big impact. Plus there is Lizo Gqoboka, snapping on the heels of the Springbok looseheads and clearly a force to be reckoned with.

“The more competition the better, that’s how you build squad depth, it’s healthy. It’s nice to challenge yourself and to scrum against strong packs, I relish the opportunity and the Pumas on Friday night will have a good pack. They are a strong side, they always play a physical game, they bring it, and they love to maul. So we know what to expect.

“But we also know what we can do if we play as a team. It’s going to be a tough battle,” Matanzima said.

Come October, NW will want to show their batting Kuhn’t be knocked over 0

Posted on April 19, 2021 by Ken

When the North-West cricket team return to the top division of domestic cricket in October, they’ll have good reason to believe their batting line-up is not going to be knocked over cheaply thanks to the acquisition of one of the most admired batsmen of the franchise era.

Heino Kuhn was the sixth highest run-getter in the history of franchise cricket, his 7209 runs at 40.50 for the Titans putting him behind only Stephen Cook (8678), Andrew Puttick (7832), Justin Ontong (7583), Vaughn van Jaarsveld (7503) and Neil McKenzie (7263). The 37-year-old is still a prolific run-scorer and he averaged 67.33 for Kent in county cricket last year.

Kuhn will provide some invaluable quality and experience to the North-West top-order batting, along with Imperial Lions star Nicky van den Bergh. They are the standout names in the batting line-up, which boasts some quality all-rounders in Senuran Muthusamy, Delano Potgieter and Dwaine Pretorius, and an exciting, explosive batsman in Wesley Marshall, who has tasted success at franchise level despite limited opportunities with the Titans and Lions.

“North-West has great facilities in Potchefstroom and because it’s a new franchise that will bring new challenges. I see a lot of new names in the squad so hopefully I can bring some knowledge and experience to the group. But I am excited to be playing with some young guys.

“As you know, I don’t change the way I play, so if I’m the only experienced batsman or there’s five experienced batsmen around me, I will play the same way – be positive and bat with intent. I don’t really know how the new structure will work, but all I know is that we are in the First Division and together with Nicky and the coaching staff we will do whatever we can to win trophies and stay there,” Kuhn told Saturday Citizen on Friday.

Muthusamy’s arrival from Durban, where his left-arm spin and solid batting played a key role in the Dolphins’ triumphant season, is another major acquisition for North-West. They have also lured the promising left-arm quick Duan Jansen back from Bloemfontein to his birthplace, and he will join former Lions stars Eldred Hawken and Nono Pongolo in a useful seam attack.

Looking ahead to 2025: This week’s training squad gives a glimpse into the future 0

Posted on July 04, 2020 by Ken

Cricket South Africa’s announcement this week that they had chosen a high performance squad of 45 players to resume training in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic gave an interesting insight into the players that the current Proteas management believe are going to take the national cricket team forward into a new era.

While the likes of Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Imran Tahir, David Miller and Dwaine Pretorius were all included because they still have important roles to play for the Proteas in the near future, it is also irresistible to not cast our minds forwards to five years’ time and consider what the South African team would look like then.

There is no doubt head coach Mark Boucher and director of cricket Graeme Smith, in the middle of a rebuilding process following the retirement of greats such as Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and JP Duminy, are also thinking ahead to a time when another half-dozen players call quits on their careers. Their goal will be to ensure the next overhaul of the national team is not as painful as the one we are currently going through.

Let’s hope that in five years’ time, a 30-year-old Kagiso Rabada and a 29-year-old Lungi Ngidi are able to share the new ball and have developed into a partnership to rival the great South African fast bowling duos of Neil Adcock and Peter Heine, Peter Pollock and Mike Procter, Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock, Pollock and Makhaya Ntini, and Steyn and Morkel.

Rabada, if he continues in the same vein that has seen him take 197 wickets in just 43 Tests since 2015, should be challenging Steyn’s record of 439 Test wickets and should be established as one of the greats of the game. His current bowling average is just 22.95 and only Curtly Ambrose, Richard Hadlee, Glenn McGrath and Muttiah Muralitharan have taken 400 wickets at a lower average. Amazingly, Steyn has finished his Test career with the exact same average of 22.95.

Let’s also hope that Rabada fulfils his potential with the bat and can slot in at number eight in the batting order, contributing valuable runs.

With Anrich Nortje and Lutho Sipamla as back-up quicks, the Proteas could field a ferocious pace attack. The best South African teams have always hit their opposition with an unrelenting pace barrage.

Current first-choice spinner Keshav Maharaj will be 35 in five years’ time, which is certainly not too old for a slow bowler to be playing Test cricket. But I fancy George Linde, a tall left-arm spinner who has already had a taste of Test cricket, taking four wickets in India in the only innings he bowled in, may well have forced his way into a regular starting place by then, not least of all due to his prowess with the bat, which has already seen him score three first-class centuries.

In terms of the batting order, much depends on whether Quinton de Kock is still as keen on playing with the gloves as he is now. If he is no longer the wicketkeeper, playing as a specialist batsman, then there is an excellent replacement behind the stumps in Kyle Verreynne, with the likes of Heinrich Klaasen, Wandile Makwetu and Sinethemba Qeshile waiting in the wings.

One hopes that top-class talents like Aiden Markram, Zubayr Hamza and Temba Bavuma have by then built a formidable reputation in Test cricket, a trio of batsmen all averaging over 40 and allowing De Kock to do what he does best, taking a long handle to opposition attacks.

As a great fan of Markram, having followed his career closely since those glorious U19 days, I would also hope that by then he has become established enough to be the national captain. He has the most natural leadership qualities, is respected by friend and foe alike, and that would allow the likes of De Kock and Bavuma to play with the freedom that makes them most dangerous.

In terms of Markram’s opening partner, the tremendously determined Elgar’s Test career might not yet be over but he will be 38. Chances are that he would have moved on, likewise a 36-year-old Van der Dussen. Current Warriors opener Ed Moore should be at his peak at 32 years old and I have chosen him over Janneman Malan simply based on a technique that is probably better suited to Test cricket.

Malan should be a key figure though in South Africa’s white-ball sides, along with current stars like Tabraiz Shamsi and Andile Phehlukwayo.

Raynard van Tonder, who topped last season’s run-scoring chart with 843 at 70.25 for the Knights, is currently at the front of the queue of uncapped young batsmen looking to be Proteas regulars by 2025, but over the course of five years, new talents will certainly emerge, so who knows?

Somewhere out there right now there could be a 15-year-old who is the next AB de Villiers, Steyn, Jacques Kallis or Paul Adams. Although overlooked for my potential starting XI, there are also players in this week’s 45-man training squad like Wiaan Mulder, Gerald Coetzee, Bjorn Fortuin and Senuran Muthusamy who could also develop into world-class Proteas.

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