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Ken Borland



Raging against the coach with bizarre conspiracies is infuriating 0

Posted on April 21, 2021 by Ken

No real Proteas fan likes it when they lose and it gets even more frustrating when it seems like the obvious best available XI is not out on the field, but what’s even more infuriating is when people rage against the coach with all sorts of bizarre conspiracy theories about personal grudges and the like.

The latest thing that Mark Boucher has done to enrage the critics – most of whom seem to reside in the Cape – is to not choose Kyle Verreynne, Western Province’s exciting wicketkeeper/batsman, for the T20 starting XI against Pakistan.

The cricketing reason behind that decision – which is not just made by Boucher on his own but in consultation with three other selectors – is that South Africa have decided to follow the example set by the high-flying English team and play a much more aggressive brand of T20 cricket.

So of the batsmen in the squad for the Pakistan series, Verreynne has the lowest strike-rate in terms of his T20 career – 123.18 – which is why he was chosen as back-up wicketkeeper to captain Heinrich Klaasen. The only other batsman with a career strike-rate below what is now considered the benchmark of 130 is Aiden Markram on 126.76. Which is why he was not originally chosen, but only played because of injuries to Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen. And Markram has since been scoring at a rate of 180.64 in the series, looking a batsman transformed.

Hopefully these facts will act as a plunger to unblock the pipes of the current commentary around the team, the discourse being clogged up by execrable suggestions that Boucher is somehow anti Cape Cobras players and is deliberately favouring those from the Titans, the team he coached up until December 2019.

Verreynne has not been chosen because there are better options to bring the sort of long-handled hitting the Proteas require in the middle-order, it’s as simple as that. No, it has nothing to do with some grudge Boucher is alleged to have against Cobras coach Ashwell Prince, as one particularly obsequious Cape Town hack suggested this week.

It seems the fact that the Cobras last won a trophy in 2014/15 and have not beaten the Titans in any format since April 2019 has made some people ugly.

While I would personally give Verreynne a go in place of Pite van Biljon, given how well he batted in the last ODI, there is another change that needs to be made if the current Proteas XI is to meet its full potential.

The race targets in place for the national side were meant to help the development pipeline, but instead they seem to have tarred Andile Phehlukwayo with the disgraceful tag of being a quota player. He is way too good a cricketer for that to be acceptable, but when he bats seven and does not bowl, one can see why the whispers emerge.

Phehlukwayo is a talented all-rounder who began to find some form with the bat in the ODI series, while also being a stalwart of the white-ball attack. What is he doing in the team now though if he is not bowling? This is when selection starts to become a box-ticking, target-pleasing exercise.

And it’s not Boucher nor the selectors who should take the blame for this. Knowing the Cricket South Africa Members Council, they are way more likely to fire people over missed targets than actual results on the field of play, so one can’t blame the Proteas for sticking to those quotas even when it doesn’t make cricketing sense.

So when Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, the ombudsman of the new Social Justice and Nation-Building Commission, said last week that he would like to see CSA hold a transformation conference in July to discuss some of his findings, I immediately thought that would be a good time for the whole targets/quotas issue to be discussed.

And it is not the White former beneficiaries of Apartheid who should be involved in that conversation, but the Black players and coaches who have to deal with targets now that should plot the way forward.

*All stats from before the last T20 International on Friday evening.

Cricket is a strange game but Kingsmead was just stupid 0

Posted on August 29, 2016 by Ken

 

Cricket is, in many ways, a strange game but there is nothing as infuriating than play not taking place when blue skies and bright sunshine are overhead. That was the case in Durban last weekend as the first Test between South Africa and New Zealand was allowed to just die with only 99.4 overs being bowled in the match.

As an endangered species, Test cricket needs to be given utmost support and attention and I firmly believe that where there is a will, there is a way.

Notwithstanding the foolishness of Cricket South Africa digging up the Kingsmead outfield in order to soften it two weeks later than they should have, meaning it struggled to cope with unseasonal heavy rain in Durban, the villains of the peace for me were English umpires Ian Gould and Richard Illingworth, who showed little interest in actually getting play underway, so fixated were they on a few damp patches on the outfield.

The umpires are the final arbiters of what is fair and safe in terms of conditions, but lines have to be drawn somewhere. Both teams were eager to play – in fact the Proteas were gathered on the side of the field shortly after play was finally abandoned on the fifth day eager to have a run-around and get some fitness in, but they were prevented from going on to the field because that would have made the umpires look bad.

I am certain that if it had been an ODI or a T20 match with similar soft areas of outfield, a plan would have been made and the umpires would have done everything in their power to get a game underway.

As usual, the accountability has been shifted to Kingsmead, who never wanted the outfield to be dug up in the first place. The International Cricket Council, as usual, passed the buck. There was absolutely no communication from the match referee, Andy Pycroft, to explain why play was not possible, and he declined to speak to the media. What’s the point of having a match referee if that is their attitude?

To make matter worse, the umpires were so apathetic when it came to making an effort that they actually banned the groundstaff from the field when groundsman Wilson Ngobese and his staff wanted to proceed with mopping up operations, saying they preferred to allow natural processes like sun and wind to run their course.

Week in and week out rugby players are busy making crunching tackles and sidestepping such collisions in often wet conditions, but how often do one of them turn an ankle? With both teams happy to play, the only conclusion is that Gould and Illingworth were being overly precious.

The future of Test cricket may not bother them or Pycroft, but what happened at Kingsmead under their watch was a fiasco and just another small nail in the coffin of the original format of the game.

Proteas captain Faf du Plessis spoke earnestly on Friday about how, for them, Test cricket was still the ultimate and it needed better treatment from the ICC.

“Test cricket is still number one for the players and a Test Championship is a step in the right direction. You ask any of the international players and they will tell you that Test cricket is still the best thing to play and we need to play as many Tests as possible.

“You want to be able to say you’ve given everything on the field and that feeling of winning a Test can’t be copied, especially not by T20. I hope the ICC is looking at that,” Du Plessis said.

Sadly, the ICC are more interested in red tape and bureaucracy, and are way more likely to jump up and down about over-rates, sponsors’ logos being too big or a player saying something even mildly controversial in a press conference.

As usual, the administrators seem to think cricket fans are more interested in what they are up to than in the actual game they are meant to be serving.

Do Sanzaar & TMOs act with fairness? 0

Posted on April 14, 2016 by Ken

 

Sanzaar’s decision to slap Sharks coach Gary Gold with a fine of A$13 500 – which is more than R150 000 – has once again raised the infuriating issue of whether southern hemisphere rugby’s governing body acts with fairness in disciplinary matters concerning South African teams.

Gold was fined for having a less-than-polite chat during the game against the Crusaders with TMO Johan Greeff. The Sharks – and many other teams – have history with this woefully incompetent official as it was his abysmal decision to award a try that saw them lose to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld last year.

While I have no problem with Gold being fined – even he admitted that what he did was wrong – what raised my ire was the severity of the punishment handed down by Kiwi judicial officer Nigel Hampton.

Especially when one considers that the selfsame Hampton only fined then-Waratahs coach Michael Cheika A$6000 in April 2014 for abusing a cameraman in Durban, also with foul language. And Cheika was a repeat offender, as Hampton himself pointed out in his judgement – “I do not regard Mr Cheika to be a first-time offender and it would be farcical to disregard other matters over the past nine years, including proven misconduct allegations from his time as a professional coach in Europe and a warning from Sanzar during the 2013 SuperRugby season,” he said.

“This matter bears a number of striking similarities with past instances, particularly the use of foul and abusive language towards those charged with running a match and the propensity of Mr Cheika to behave in this manner is disturbing. Given his previous record and the factual findings of the investigation, I regard this as a serious offence and do not see it as a result of any provocation, nor is there any excuse for it.

“Mr Cheika’s admission of guilt and contrition during the hearing is balanced by inappropriate accusations made on his behalf that witnesses fabricated evidence; a notion they rightly recoiled at.”

Cheika was also found guilty, last year, of approaching a referee at halftime and, guess what? Sanzar let him off with a warning!

What is equally infuriating is that Sanzaar continue to come down hard on the symptom of the problem and not the cause – which is incompetent TMOs.

While I have great sympathy for referees, who have to make split-second rulings based on a bewildering variety of laws, especially at ruck time, TMOs really should not be making the mistakes they do. Knowing the laws is one thing, but not being able to see or interpret several replays properly is another; I’d be willing to wager that you could drag someone out of the crowd in their denim jeans and they could do a better job than some of the TMOs Sanzaar have inflicted on the game.

Greeff’s failure to properly review two occurrences in the game against the Crusaders had an obvious impact on the result of the match.

The first was Willie le Roux’s disallowed try in the 66th minute that would have given the Sharks a 19-12 lead. Greeff made a rapid decision that the fullback was in front of the kicker but he made use of just one replay, and the camera angle wasn’t even in line with play.

Then, in the 72nd minute, when Kieran Read scored to give the Crusaders a 19-14 victory, Greeff declined to look at a replay after there had been a suggestion of a knock-on in the 15-phase build-up to the try.

Much of the rugby public is already feeling confused and disenchanted with SuperRugby and its new format; when the officials are seemingly watching an entirely different game to them on TV, despite having the benefit of several replays, then the usual reaction is one of anger and frustration and no brand should want the customers to go through that.

 

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