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Ken Borland

Proteas collapses have showed that international stage is not for Joe Soap batsmen 0

Posted on December 29, 2022 by Ken

The International cricket stage is not the sort of place Joe Soap batsmen just come in and automatically do well and the recurring failures of the Proteas batting line-up this year showed that there is something more systemic to blame for the several dreadful collapses we have seen.

In the last 12 months, South Africa have been bowled out in Test cricket for scores of 95 and 111 in New Zealand, 118, 151, 169 and 179 in England, and 191 and 197 against India at Centurion. In ODIs, England have bundled them out for 83 and India shot them out for 99 earlier this week, while 154 all out against Bangladesh at SuperSport Park was a shock. In T20s, there was 87 all out and 106/8 in India, and 118/9 in the opening match of last year’s World Cup, against Australia in Abu Dhabi.

Some of these same batsmen that have been exposed a few times against overseas opposition take delight in scoring heavily in domestic cricket, and that is where Cricket South Africa need to look first.

The expansion from six to eight teams at the top level and the unfortunate fact that probably two-thirds of the transformation targets per team are filled by bowlers, has led to a dilution of the strength of bowling attacks in the local game.

Having watched plenty of domestic cricket in recent times, it is apparent that, for top batsmen, there is probably a pair of pacemen and maybe a spinner who will provide a suitable test for their abilities, but thereafter there is a drop in intensity and a batter who has international aspirations finds it relatively easy to rack up big scores.

The quality of pitches also needs to be looked at: We have had a few ‘roads’ around the country which barely test a batsman, and green tops and rank turners don’t help either because they lower the overall quality of the bowling by not forcing bowlers to develop the skills and patience required on the generally good wickets at international level.

And, as both England and India’s bowlers have capitalised on, there is precious little quality swing bowling seen in South Africa these days; gone are the likes of Richard Snell, Meyrick Pringle and Alan Dawson, who were leading wicket-takers season in and season out.

The ill-effects of quotas on local cricket are obvious, but it also needs to be pointed out that the wretched system of Apartheid enforced a 100% White quota, which had even more of a sickening effect on sport. Quotas are there to try and redress that iniquity and level the playing field, and if anyone has a better method of doing that, I’m sure CSA would love to hear from you.

It has certainly not helped the domestic game that there have been drastic financial cuts by CSA. These cost-saving measures came about due to the incompetence and misgovernance of the previous board, which caused sponsors to flee en masse.

In previous times, new batsmen came into the Proteas team with three or four seasons of strength-versus-strength, hard cricket behind them. They would play a dozen matches per season per format. Now the domestic game is no longer contested on a home-and-away basis, and our top local cricketers play much less cricket, thereby reducing their experience and learning opportunities.

So what are CSA to do about this, to ensure that we keep producing great batsmen of the same ilk as Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Gary Kirsten, Herschelle Gibbs, Graeme Smith, Faf du Plessis, David Miller, JP Duminy and Albie Morkel?

Hopefully the SA20 league is going to pump much-needed funds into domestic cricket to make it stronger, but CSA are also going to have to try and bring more of those illustrious former names into the fold to help advise and fine-tune our best young batsmen who are going to push for Proteas places in the future.

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