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Ken Borland

Smith the older brother SA cricket needed … and then spurned 0

Posted on May 27, 2022 by Ken

Graeme Smith may have only been 22 years old when he was appointed as national captain in 2003, but democracy in this country was only nine years old then and the Proteas were a bit of a mess, so in many ways he was the big, older brother South African cricket desperately needed.

As a brash young man still trying to make his way in international cricket, Smith was probably only fully aware of the culture problems within the team after a few years. After the disappointment of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, Smith set about fixing the Proteas, alongside manager Mohammed Moosajee, who was appointed in 2008, and the input of life coaches like Paddy Upton and Jeremy Snape.

Protea Fire and a far more inclusive culture were born, one which acknowledged that they were representing a country which had a divided past. Honesty and Ubuntu were required, they were playing for more than just themselves.

The result was a much happier team and it showed in performance as they became the No.1 side in the world.

When Smith retired in 2014 he hoped the Protea Fire legacy would live on. How sad it must have been for him that, just five years later, the Proteas were in rack and ruin. Typical of the leader he is, Smith agreed to try and restore South African cricket to former glories by becoming Director of Cricket at the end of 2019.

But worse was to follow as the very people who had pushed Cricket South Africa to the precipice then spearheaded a campaign against Smith. It culminated in the Social Justice and Nation-Building hearings, where it seemed as many vile untruths were spoken as there were painful reminders of a shameful past.

The totally inadequate work of Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza was finally undone this week when Smith was cleared of all charges of racism by an independent arbitration hearing. CSA gave notice of their defeat – with costs – at 9pm on a Sunday night and board chairman Lawson Naidoo issued a statement that said it was now “appropriate to recognise the extraordinary contribution that Graeme has made to South African cricket”. It was almost as if the history we know we lived through as Proteas fans was now officially approved.

Unfortunately, there is lasting damage – one only has to see on social media the bitter divisionists refusing to accept the arbitrators’ findings – and Naidoo’s closing comment – “we very much hope that he will still work in the cricket world in appropriate capacities going forward” – hints at the fact that Smith’s expertise as the most experienced captain in Test history is now probably lost to South African cricket and will be snapped up by some other country.

If it’s not bad enough losing so much talent and I.P. to overseas teams thanks to the exchange rate, we are also actively chasing away people who could contribute so much good to our sport.

Head coach Mark Boucher’s disciplinary hearing is still to come and the outcome of Smith’s arbitration suggests there is still hope that the ‘tentative’ and unproven but damning allegations made by the SJN will receive the proper, unbiased and legally sound treatment they deserve.

A new Director of Cricket is also still to be appointed, with Enoch Nkwe probably still the favourite to succeed Smith.

Having to appoint a new head coach for tough tours of India, England and Australia as his first task would not make his life any easier, but then again the good of the Proteas, who bring in 80% of CSA’s income, is way down the list of priorities of those who have grudges to settle.

T20 Challenge has allowed stars and prospects space to shine 0

Posted on March 24, 2022 by Ken

This summer’s premier T20 tournament may be confined to a bubble in Gqeberha, but there has still been space for some highly entertaining, impressive cricket in the first week of the CSA T20 Challenge.

The eight provinces have all played twice and the Boland Rocks and Free State Knights are the only teams who have not yet won a game. Overall it has been a highly competitive event, with Boland coming agonisingly close to beating the Northerns Titans.

The North-West Dragons, with the only bonus point so far, and Western Province are the two sides who have won both their matches, but the gap between them and the KZN Dolphins, Central Gauteng Lions, Northerns and Eastern Province Warriors is not large.

The Lions get the chance to show that on Sunday when they take on WP.

Looking at the bigger picture, and a future that includes another T20 World Cup in October/November in Australia, who are the players that the national selectors will be keeping an eye on?

One first needs to ask where are the gaps in the current Proteas team, who performed better than expected in the previous T20 World Cup, albeit in conditions that will be very different to Australia.

The well-travelled David Miller has world-class T20 stats – he averaged 47 last year at a strike-rate of 149 – and is a certainty for Australia, but there is hopefully space in the squad for another finisher, someone who can be groomed to succeed the 32-year-old somewhere down the line.

Two youngsters who have caught the eye are the 21-year-old Tristan Stubbs of EP and 23-year-old Donovan Ferreira of the Titans. They are scoring at a strike-rate of 189 and 152 respectively in this tournament, while Stubbs has a career strike-rate of 148 and Ferreira 157.

The Lions owe a considerable debt to Sisanda Magala for ensuring they are not with Boland and Free State at the bottom of the log with zero points. The burly pace bowler has been superb with the ball, especially at the death, and his eight overs so far have cost just 6.62 runs per over, and he chipped in with a couple of key wickets that killed off the KZN charge to victory on Thursday.

Magala also shone with the bat. Coming in at 95/5 in the 12th over, he scored a punishing 37 off just 27 balls to lift the Lions to 156/8, which proved to be just enough.

Magala has not yet shown the same expertise at international level, but in a team that is often criticised for their bowling skills on flat pitches (expected in Australia), he brings a package that still looks useful.

South Africa will no doubt have to restructure their team a bit in Australia to reflect the more pace-friendly conditions, but young fast bowlers have not exactly been shoving their hands up in the CSA T20. The best quicks have been veterans like Magala, Hardus Viljoen, Junior Dala and Beuran Hendricks.

But it has been pleasing to see the change in mindset surrounding the use of spin that Mark Boucher spearheaded in the national team start to filter down to the provinces. Spinners have done wonderfully well on the slow pitches at St George’s Park and some potential stars are starting to come through.

Left-armer Johannes Diseko has been key to North-West’s surprise charge to the top of the log, while Proteas like George Linde, Senuran Muthusamy, Bjorn Fortuin and Aaron Phangiso continue to shine.

Prenelan Subrayen has shown he is a quality off-spinner and Imraan Manack is key to the Boland attack; 19-year-old leg-spinner Caleb Seleka looks highly promising for North-West too.

Most positively, the presence of Proteas stars like Miller, Tabraiz Shamsi, Janneman Malan, Quinton de Kock and Dwaine Pretorius has ensured that quality runs through this summer’s CSA T20 Challenge.

This Proteas side obviously has plenty of fight … and potential 0

Posted on February 09, 2022 by Ken

Two things that are obvious in this current Proteas team, highlighted by their tremendous series win over India, is the amount of fight and potential that resides in this squad.

By triumphing over the challenge of an Indian team featuring two of the best fast bowlers in the world in Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, as well as a side featuring the batting talents of a top six that are all inside the top-35 of the ICC rankings, the Proteas have done their reputation a world of good. For a team in transition to claim the scalp of the No.1 side in Test cricket must rank as one of the best achievements since isolation.

The series win was marked by the arrival of two exciting players for the future in batsman Keegan Petersen and left-arm quick Marco Jansen, whose potential with the bat has already seen him claim the No.7 spot of the typical all-rounder.

The 21-year-old Jansen only made his Test debut in the first Test at Centurion because Duanne Olivier was not yet fully fit for five days of cricket after a bout of Covid. But Jansen has cashed in on friendly bowling conditions in quite remarkable fashion, taking 19 wickets at an average of just 16.47. Only Kagiso Rabada (20 at 19.05) took more wickets in the series.

Jansen’s bounce, pace and priceless ability to move the ball both ways means he has looked right at home in Test cricket and he has also shown the tough temperament you want from your fast bowlers.

Petersen scored just 15 and 17 at SuperSport Park but then found his groove with three crucial half-centuries in his last four innings. And he did all of that in the tough No.3 position, with Aiden Markram’s continued failures meaning he came to the wicket early in every innings.

It led to suggestions that perhaps Petersen’s path into Test cricket should be eased by dropping down the order a bit, but the 28-year-old has emphatically made the No.3 position his own for at least the rest of the summer. The leading run-scorer in the series with 276 at an average of 46, Petersen’s temperament and mental toughness, excelling in tough situations when the pressure was on, has been even more impressive than his slick strokeplay.

With Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma also having good series and Rassie van der Dussen playing important roles in the two daunting run-chases at the Wanderers and Newlands, it would be silly to contemplate too many changes to the batting order.

One player who might have played his last Test as an opening batsman though is Markram. As talented as he is and as well as he has done previously in the position, a return of 80 runs in his last eight innings is not good enough. Sarel Erwee, who has acted as his understudy for the better part of a year now, was the leading run-scorer for SA A against India A last month and deserves to get a chance in New Zealand next month.

As for Markram, there has been talk of him playing as a middle-order batsman, which would be interesting, but he needs to go back to domestic cricket and force his way back into the team in that position through weight of runs.

Coach Mark Boucher also deserves to have a deeper well of public support for his role in inspiring the team to such a memorable, unexpected triumph.

After a poor performance in the first Test, well done to the Proteas, who were without a key fast bowler in Anrich Nortje, for fighting back and then lasting the distance in what has been a fascinating series. The action has been gripping and the twists in fortune quite riveting.

Long live Test cricket!

Parnell focus on shepherding WP youngsters, but now back in Proteas squad 0

Posted on December 31, 2021 by Ken

Wayne Parnell is back in the Proteas fold for the first time in four years with the 32-year-old all-rounder saying on Thursday that his recall was most unexpected as his focus this summer has purely been on shepherding the young players in the Western Province team.

Parnell is the first former Kolpak player to be chosen for the national squad since the end of that talent-draining ruling in January 2020. It may just be for a three-match ODI series against the Netherlands from which several first-choice players are being rested, but given how well he has performed with both bat and ball for Western Province, Parnell could well add his name to the serious discussions over all-rounder spots.

“For me it’s been a crazy journey over the last couple of years,” Parnell said on Thursday. “I didn’t set out to come back and play for the Proteas, I was just trying to add value for Western Province, help the younger guys.

“I had no expectation, I didn’t think I would ever play for South Africa again. But I am still young enough and I can contribute. I’ve only spoken to Victor Mpitsang [convenor of selectors] about where I fit in and opportunities going forward.

“I still have to sit down with Mark Boucher [head coach] and understand what they’re thinking, but I cannot turn down my country. And if I play well then maybe I will play against India,” Parnell said.

The former SA U19 captain and leading wicket-taker at the 2008 U19 World Cup is one of South Africa’s great unfulfilled talents, despite playing six Tests, 65 ODIs and 40 T20s for the Proteas.

But he said on Thursday that he has been able to find more enjoyment in playing now and any past mismanagement lay in the past.

“I’m more experienced now and I know how to deal with different circumstances. I’ve been enjoying playing different roles and having more freedom. International cricket is different because there is a lot more competition for places.

“Now I look at the game completely differently and I feel comfortable with what I can bring to any team and I’m not worried about being better than the guy next to me.

“There were a lot of different factors to my career, but I don’t look back. Yes, a lot of things could have been done differently, but I don’t blame anyone. Maybe it will be better this time,” Parnell said.

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