If Phehlukwayo Does Not Take Wickets, Then We Can Panic

As the title of this article says, we should only start criticising and worrying about his form and place in the squad if Andile Phehlukwayo gets absolutely no wickets in this ODI series against Sri Lanka.

Comments about dropping him have been doing a slight round during the first ODI against Sri Lanka that ended in a win for South Africa by 8 wickets. His performance during the T20 series was not too bad, while he was a slight bit expensive in the second game. As a sporting public, we do tend to forget that while our sports heroes are meant to be on top of their game in every match, it simply is not possible to be on golden form every time. Hashim Amla took a slight dip in form a couple of weeks ago at the near end of the ODI series against Australia continuing into the test series against Sri Lanka, but is now back in the swing and groove of his batting.

It is also not a bad idea to mention that Phehlukwayo has come out a nasty groin injury from the first Dolphins game during the T20 Challenge in 2016 against the Warriors, so he is naturally a little bit rusty and out of touch – which should be expected. He has had some domestic 4-day games as well as the recent T20 series. Form is not something that is found in a day. Only if he does not take any wickets in this ODI series, does not score any runs due to him going out cheaply, and leaks runs at any time during his bowling, then we should be worried about his form. However, Phehlukwayo is still very young, only 20, so this slight lack of form is to be expected, just like how we can expect fellow paceman Kagiso Rabada, as we have seen before, to be a little bit off their game. They are still very young, and while they have had good games and good series, inconsistency is expected. Rabada did say, when asked about Amla’s form by the media, that he is not a robot and that he knows what needs to be done in order to get back to form. The very same can be said about Phehlukwayo.

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Proteas Dropped the Ball… several times.

Five times is what was counted. It felt like a lot more, some would say, and it probably was a lot more than five. Majority of these dropped catches were sitters. The basics of catching, from what I’ve seen at least, are the ones that could not be caught in last night’s game.

Sri Lanka’s fielding also had several misfields, so the game was more or less spread out evenly with South Africa also having not the best day in the field. South Africa’s batting was pretty average. The batting innings nearly being taken away when two of South Africa’s big hitters in David Miller and the ever-loved Farhaan Behardien went out in close succession by a sloppy shot and an unnecessary run-out respectively. Wicket-keeper and big-hitter for the bizhub Highveld Lions, Mangaliso Mosehle, came to the crease and hit a blitz 32 off 15 fifteen balls saw the Proteas end on 169-5 thanks to a classy 68 by returning batsman, AB de Villiers. An above average score especially on a ground like Newlands; one that can be easily defended, right? Captain Behardien thought so, too.

A couple of slightly expensive overs by Lungi Ngidi and new-bowler Dane Paterson saw Sri Lanka reach the end of the Powerplay 48-1, similar of that to South Africa’s 48-2. Imran Tahir came to the party again, bowling out stand-in captain Dinesh Chandimal for 5, and was the stand-out bowler for the Proteas ending on figures of 3-18. Andile Phehlukwayo was also a slight stand-out for me with his good use of the slower ball to only concede two runs in his third over, which was much needed in order to propel the team to win the match and bowl well at the death.

That would have been the case if catches were taken! Throughout the match, there were an array of dropped catches both by Sri Lankan and South African fielders, and there happened to be many more by the Proteas. As we all know, the team was dealt with a curve-ball in the middle of 2016 by Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula in which he called out for transformation targets to be introduced in cricket, netball, rugby and athletics. It has been met with many people agreeing and disagreeing with the targets, saying that our cricket especially will go to the dogs, or will even end up like Zimbabwe are in terms of their standard of cricket. I am an avid Twitter commentator whenever we play, and enjoy reading the comments of what fellow South African cricket fans have to say, but to go as far as saying that transformation targets was the reason we lost the match is nonsense. Since when does skin colour hinder cricketer’s ability to catch a ball? If I can remember clearly, Dane Paterson, who is white, had about two dropped catches in the game. It was a bad fielding performance all round, regardless. Basically in South Africa, whenever something goes wrong in the cricket, it’s because of transformation and quotas; but whenever something goes very very well, transformation is doing what was intended.

Captain Behardien said in his post-match interview that it was something that happens and is quite common. I don’t know any matches in the history of cricket had that many dropped catches and still expected something good to come out at the end, let alone a hat-trick of dropped catches. While it was his first time captaining a national side, some room for error was expected, but to an extent. Not pushing the team and making them know what was expected on the field and just claiming the dropped catches as something that happens is unacceptable. He, in the meantime is also struggling to get back to his T20 Challenge playing ways. He should have a lot done better. No doubt.

Thankfully, however, Behardien will not captain the One Day side as De Villiers is back. While this series was not an important one for preparation for a World T20, it was one to enhance the depth of our T20 squad for future games. It was also important to give our “first string” players a break from what was a great ending to 2016 and an even better start to 2017 to get the geared up and ready for the upcoming season of great and exciting cricket to be played. Senior players in the T20 squad should have stepped up more, but a possible back-up for Quinton de Kock and a new raw talent in seam bowling were unearthed in Mosehle and Ngidi respectively. South African fans and selectors should only start to panic and worry if the ODI (One Day Internatinal) series does not go according to plan. Until then, let us hope the Proteas go back to training and start with the basics of catching. Catches win matches.

Congratulations must go to Sri Lanka for winning the series 2-1 and to Niroshan Dickwella for getting Man-of-the-Match and Man-of-the-Series awards for being the highest run-scorer in the series with 133 to his name.

Captain Behardien?

A topic that, with all due respect to Farhaan Behardien, made me laugh out loud. Really loud. Is he necessarily the right captain for a squad of young players?

While there are six new players brought in to enhance the depth of our T20 International squad for future matches and selections, it was a slight experiment bringing in a player with a high strike-rate but has not even captained a national or domestic squad since starting for the Proteas. I am a Behardien fan. I do believe that he can do very well for South Africa like he has in the domestic scene. For some reason, it may be due to pressure or nerves, some players do much better domestically than they do at international level, and he unfortunately happens to be one of those players. While I am not criticising the selectors on his appointment of captaincy, it would just be better understood as to why he was giving this form of leadership, as it seems it is only justified with his fantastic form in the recent T20 Challenge where he reached a new record in T20 scores of 55 runs coming from 15 balls in early December. Impressive play? Definitely. Captain material? I don’t really think so.

This may be deemed common knowledge, but most great cricket players, or even players in any sport, do not always make as great leaders. Some are natural-born leaders but are slightly below average in their actual sport-playing. This sparked a debate among cricket fans in South Africa mostly on whether AB de Villiers, who recently stepped down as Test captain for the Proteas after two matches in early January 2016, was better suited to play without the burden of captaining the team and scoring big runs, for which he is known. A similar incident occurred in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2016 where David Miller was released from his captaincy of the bottom-of-the-log team Kings XI Punjab. Even while captaincy was passed on to fellow teammate and Indian batsman, Murali Vijay, his form in the shorter format still suffered.

When now discussing the most recent T20 that was on Sunday, the one thing that stood out for me, apart from the terrible shots played by our batsmen and many dropped catches, was the death over bowler. Lungi Ngidi, the young up-and-coming quick, had bowled out his overs and reached his career best of 4-19. He, Imran Tahir, and Wayne Parnell managed at times to keep things tight and not leak too many runs. My only criticism of how Ngidi was used is that he could have been kept for an over getting closer to the death seeing that Andile Phehlukwayo had been more expensive than usual, conceding three boundaries in his second over and going for 11 runs in his first.

Bringing in a spinner to bowl the last over of the game to defend seven runs on a deck that was favouring a batsman willing to grind it out was a slightly naive idea, but one that may have been done in desperation. It would have been ideal to bring Phehlukwayo to bowl at death, but considering his last two overs, it would have been risky. Had catches been held onto, the last over could have required more runs to defend, which would have been better if Ngidi had been saved for the 15th or even the 16th over as he was the second most economical bowler or the Proteas.

This young squad of players needed a leader that was experienced in captaincy and had an idea as to how he wanted his troops to play in the match when it came to both batting a bowling. As majority of the players who were involved in the Test series clean-sweep were rested, including T20I and newly-appointed Test captain Faf du Plessis, there seems as if there was no other option for the interim captaincy. This T20 series is no place to place a trial-and-error on potential captains especially when the squad had a few young players making their debut on the international front.

The decider of this now-interesting T20I series is tomorrow. With the inclusion of de Villiers in the squad, he now adds an element of experience and leadership to the very young squad. Seeing that Behardien is only supposed to captain the first two T20 matches, will de Villiers takeover Fudgie’s captaincy, or will Fudgie try and end the series off sweetly for South Africa?

An Interview Sparks a Beginning

This morning I had an interview with a company to possibly award me with a bursary for my studies. An interesting time it was indeed.

Firstly, my mom works at this company, so a word was passed on to me that should try and apply for it. To my surprise, an interview was set up. While that was a good sign that this could go in my favour, it put some things into perspective for me.

Going into the actual interview, I had to have some idea as to what I want to do when I complete my undergraduate degree: do I want to go into an Honours and a diploma later on, or maybe branch out to something within the Communications field while still speaking and reporting cricket. I had stuck to the first decision.

As the interview carried on, I could not stop thinking about how I could actually make and build a name for myself as a cricket journalist. Do I still even want to only focus on reporting cricket stories, or do I also want to go into a sports photography career. A lot is still swimming through my mind even as I write this blog post.

All in all, something that definitely came from that interview is that I know for sure I didn’t get the bursary, but I did get some sound advice: start now while you can and have the time; whether it’s free or not. Build a portfolio. The internship and desired job at SA Cricket Magazine will come depending on how hard I work now.

Here’s to the first blog post on here that could be a beginning of an awesome career for me.

I do hope for the best however.