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Ken Borland



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

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