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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.

Sipamla at the start of the chain, slick & consistent deliveries what he brings 0

Posted on August 25, 2022 by Ken

The Central Gauteng Lions did their bit for Mandela Day this week by packing boxes of food and hygiene products to be distributed by humanitarian aid organisations. A chain of players then relayed them from the field to the stands by throwing the boxes to each other. At the start of this chain was Lutho Sipamla, showing the sort of slick, consistent delivery that is demanded of Springbok scrumhalves.

Consistency is also what the 24-year-old paceman brings in his bowling; in his three Test appearances so far he has taken 11 wickets at an average of just 22.27. But he has also impressed with his ability to bowl regularly in a channel, which Sipamla believes is going to be important re the upcoming Test series against England, who have revitalised their fortunes with an aggressive approach to batting.

“Watching their past few games, whoever the bowlers, England have really come after them,” Sipamla told The Citizen. “Their brand of cricket has been a lot more attacking.

“So line-and-length is going to be really important and controlling your channel for as long as possible. It’s going to be about patience and sticking to simple plans.

“I think if we can do that, with our attack, then we can come out on top. Either way, I know I would have really learnt a lot by the end of the tour,” Sipamla said.

Given his inexperience at international level, there is little doubt England’s aggressive batsmen will target Sipamla, but the Port Elizabeth product says he is happy to carry the fight to the batsmen if they do go after him.

“If the batsmen do show a lot of intent, then you have your zone as a bowler and if the batsman makes a mistake then he gets out; that’s my game-plan,” Sipamla said.

“I like the challenge of it being you against the batsman, that contest in the moment, I want to own and win the battle.”

The other thing Sipamla wants is to enjoy a proper cricket tour to one of the great homes of the game.

“Grey High School went on a tour of England in 2016, my matric year, but this will be my first proper international experience and I’m really looking forward to it,” Sipamla said.

“Just to see England and explore it and the touring side of life, I’m just going to enjoy it because it’s going to be great to be back. There’s a lot to do in England.

“And the Tests are at such historic grounds [Lord’s, Old Trafford and the Oval] and to be at Lord’s is going to be unbelievable. I know our pace attack and what they have in the bag, and what better place to show it,” Sipamla said.

The vengeful wrath of a spouse whose partner has committed adultery 0

Posted on July 04, 2022 by Ken

Trawling social media (which always leaves one feeling a bit dirty), one would think Cricket South Africa’s newly-appointed director of cricket, Enoch Nkwe, is filled with the sort of vengeful wrath of a spouse whose partner has committed adultery.

South Africans, it seems, love the drama of confrontation and aggression, especially if we can throw in an element of racial bias. No wonder we are such a sadly divided nation.

Aside from the delicious irony of Nkwe having gone from being Mark Boucher’s assistant coach to effectively his boss in the space of less than a year, it is highly unlikely that the new director of cricket is going to come in and destabilise the national team – especially since they are clearly heading in the right direction – by firing the coach.

And with CSA now playing it by the book in terms of corporate governance, any perceived enmity between the two has not only been grossly overstated but would also not be grounds for dismissing Boucher.

While admittedly it was a difficult marriage between the two when Boucher became head coach in December 2019, Nkwe being ‘demoted’ from interim team director to his assistant, the new director of cricket told me personally a couple of months back that he had no issues with Boucher personally.

His much-publicised resignation and his eventual decision not to testify at Boucher’s disciplinary hearing were never about the man himself. The reason why their work relationship never clicked is because, at heart, they are both head coaches.

South Africa have often got it wrong when it comes to their assistant coaches for the national team. Being the Proteas assistant coach is not like being the head coach of a franchise, the responsibilities are totally different. It is why someone like Malibongwe Maketa is much better off being the head coach of the SA A team than he would be in some understudy role with the Proteas.

It is a systemic error and Nkwe is exactly the sort of clear thinker to put it right as director of cricket.

At CSA’s AGM last October, the grim financial picture of the organisation was shown, with a nett loss of R221 million in 2020/21. This was largely due to broadcast revenue plummeting and there was an acknowledgement that to fix the situation, the Proteas had to be a drawcard, strong enough for the Big Three to want to play against regularly.

Between Boucher and the previous director of cricket, Graeme Smith, that vital reputation overseas has been restored. The immense respect Smith is held in internationally, especially in India, was crucial in getting those ‘sugar daddies’ into bed.

Nkwe will be a different sort of director of cricket. Apart from being an excellent coach, the 39-year-old is passionate about developing structures for the game, from grassroots all the way to where the sponsors want to pay their big money.

Nkwe’s appointment is an investment in the game at all levels and just reward for someone who has maintained his dignity despite the ignominy of his treatment by the previous CSA Board.

But then Boucher has also been treated disgracefully and I like to believe that there will a professional relationship between the two and a respect for their different roles.

Boucher may well continue to be the public face of our cricket as he steers the national team, but Nkwe has a vital role to play in ensuring the pipeline, everything that feeds into the Proteas, is operating smoothly and efficiently.

Together, they could actually form quite a formidable team. Nkwe is one of the leading cricket brains in the country and his input into the national team and all levels below it can only be beneficial.

Mike Bechet: A straightforward coach who makes administrators squirm but the players adore him 0

Posted on July 13, 2021 by Ken

Mike Bechet is the sort of coach who makes administrators squirm but is adored by his players, for the same reason – the great producer of schoolboy talent is renowned for being straightforward and honest, and as passionate about the game as anyone.

Bechet’s fame was made at Maritzburg College, where 21 future senior internationals and 74 SA U18 caps have passed through his hands since 1982. Since 2015 he has been at Jeppe High School in Johannesburg and his impact is clear. He may be coaching the U16A team, but it is no coincidence that Jeppe have become a dominant force in South African schoolboy hockey, being the top-ranked team in both 2018 and 2019. And there have been a couple more SA Schools caps coming through his pipeline.

Among the more recent internationals Bechet coached at school are Tevin Kok, Tyson Dlungwana, Tommy Hammond, Siya Nolutshungu, Taine Paton, Peabo Lembethe and Matt Guise-Brown. Before the recent era, Proteas such as Steve and Iain Evans, Grant von Mayer, Ryan Shrives, Darren Gallagher, Charl van der Merwe and Gareth Carr all graduated under Bechet’s coaching.

And this is not to mention the impact Bechet has had on cricket in this country, as coach of the Maritzburg College 1st XI for 572 games, he had a major hand in the development of Jonty Rhodes and David Miller, as well as one Kevin Pietersen, who played for England. He was an SA Schools and SA U19 selector from 2008 to 2020.

Bechet’s coaching approach could be described as “tough love” and the former parabat has always been more interested in the character of his charges than in their skills.

“I like to pick guys who absorb information and who have good character, I value that above skill. You can teach someone skill but you can’t teach character. Things like mental attitude and a culture of no excuses play a huge role. I look for guys with big hearts, the capacity to train hard and who live a good lifestyle. I always advise my players to surround themselves with winners from whatever field.

“Basically I want to develop good people, that’s what really counts for me, and you want them to continue playing. Unbeaten seasons don’t fill me with much pride, I get more pride out of developing international and provincial players. That’s the bigger picture that I’m after. And it’s incredibly humbling to stay in touch with a lot of my former players who have made it big.

“They all come back to me and that’s the rewarding bit, to have an influence on people’s lives. I accept that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you can handle discipline and train hard then you will flourish under me,” Bechet says.

One only has to spend five minutes on the side of a sports field with Bechet to know that it is obvious he hates losing, but he is more than willing to embrace the tough lessons that defeat can impart.

“One does actually learn a lot more from losing, especially kids,” Bechet says. “And knowledge is power and I do read a lot. Sports books like the autobiographies of people like Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Rod McQueen, Eddie Jones, they were all hard guys. My approach is certainly that you must be all-in or not at all.”

A product of Durban High School, Bechet studied at both Rhodes University and UCT. He has a BA Honours in Physical Education and an HDE and has twice been the recipient of the South African Hockey Association’s President’s Award for services to hockey, in both 2005 and 2010.

Bechet has seen all sides of the hockey realm – as a player he represented Eastern Province, Western Province and the champion Natal side, as well as being capped for the SA U21s in 1976. He has coached Natal Schools (1989) and the senior Natal side (1991-92) to interprovincial titles and was the convenor of the South African selection panel for both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Bechet has even excelled in the world of umpiring, having an SA III grading and having blown the 1987 and 1988 SA U18 IPT finals.

It was out on the park where Bechet, who considers himself a schoolmaster first and foremost, first began honing his coaching skills.

“Hockey was always my passion and being coached by people like Darryl Bestall, Alan Paton, Tony Godding and Brian Edwards, I was exposed to so much coaching wisdom. I used to pick their brains while I was playing, I was taking in information all the time I was out on the field. In July 1981 I began employment at Maritzburg College and I have always said I’m a schoolmaster not a teacher, because I teach phys ed and I coach sport,” the 65-year-old says.

Von Mayer, who has followed in Bechet’s footsteps as a schoolmaster coaching hockey, albeit further in the heart of the KZN Midlands at Michaelhouse, says it was only when he was a student that he realised the key to Bechet’s success.

“Bech really gets the best out of people because he gets you to play for something other than yourself. Often you end up playing for him.

“That’s because he brings a system and an organisation to the game, that comes from the fact he was a fine player himself. He demanded that you do things to improve your skills. When I talk to other coaches now in the different fora, they’re all like him now. So Bech has spawned a whole lot of new coaches who continue his approach”.

Mike Bechet has already had a massive impact on South African hockey, and the good news is that influence will continue through his legacy – the young men he coached now becoming mentors themselves.

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  • Thought of the Day

    Philemon 1:7 – “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”

    “Every disciple of Jesus has a capacity for love. The most effective way to serve the Master is to share his love with others. Love can comfort, save the lost, and offer hope to those who need it. It can break down barriers, build bridges, establish relationships and heal wounds.” – A Shelter From The Storm, Solly Ozrovech

    If there’s a frustrating vacuum in your spiritual life and you fervently desire to serve the Lord but don’t know how you’re meant to do that, then start by loving others in his name.


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