Prelude to the Cheating Aussie Story: Dressing Room Review

A throwback piece to 2017 when I was tasked with writing a Gonzo piece for my Journalism class.

Advertisements
dnaindiacom2
Part of the so-called “Leadership Group” who planned to tamper with the ball is their possible leader: Steve Smith. Image: dnaindia.com

Steve Smith, you are a damn cheat! Do you think that we fans and spectators are stupid? And the fact that you were not charged for this appals me. As a passionate South African cricket fan and writer, I am beyond angry at the ICC. Let us just get one thing clear: the ICC is full of nonsense. Absolute bollocks! And I will tell you why I think so. Some people, who are just not keeping up with such serious matters like this, even though it is in cricket, will think that this situation is meaningless. Well, here we go in trying to understand the thinking of the ICC here.

What a test match it was though. In the first one, India had just come from a 333-run drubbing in their own flat, spinning-like-a-top track where they had been dominating visiting teams in tests to eventually climb to the number one rankings in the format. Historical win for the Australians to inflict such a beating, but that has gone out of the window once this incident occurred, and it was kind of a one-man show, in which Steve O’Keefe got twelve wickets at the end of the match to help his side to a win. This test series was just full of drama: from Matt Renshaw being looked down by retired Baggy Greens and his captain for ‘retiring hurt’ to go to the toilet during the first innings, to this cheating debacle. People were not kidding when they previewed this series by saying it will be interesting.

But back on topic now: the deceitful ways of an Australian player. Worse thing is that he is the captain. I will try and simplify it for you if you do not know what happened. Steve Smith was batting to try and save his team in the fourth innings of the second test match in Bengaluru, with Australia three wickets down very early in the innings. Umesh Yadav of India bowled an absolute peach to trap Smith for leg before wicket (lbw). Absolutely plumb, it was. Even if he had reviewed it, he was going to be out, and apparently the umpire thought so, too. Smith, now unsure whether or not he got a little bit of bat on the ball, consults with his non-striking partner, Peter Handscomb. Now here is where things start to get controversial. Handscomb suggests to Smith that he should ask the Aussie dressing room whether or not to review it.

As a captain, Smith should have stopped there straight away. It is stated in the ICC Code of Conduct, that is only read by umpires and match referees apparently, that you can only consult with your batting partner on whether or not you should review. It is simple as to why you should not ask the dressing room: they are also watching the game on their televisions and laptops for technical things players can look out for and work on etcetera. It’s basically cheating. It is almost like taking a test in high school and having a phone on you with the answers on it: unfair!  The umpire saw this straight away and sent Smith off the field with him not even getting a chance to review the lbw. Rightfully so, Captain Virat Kohli of India was livid! He stated in the press conference that he had spoken to the umpires and match referee of this almost typical Australian doing of consulting the dressing room.

Steve Smith, I will ask you again: do you think for a second that fans are going to believe that it was a brain fade to consult the dressing room on whether or not you were out knowing full well you cannot do that? Again I ask, do you think we are incredibly stupid? Apparently the ICC and Cricket Australian Board (CAB) believe you because now they are not going to review this case, and the CAB have gone on to say to fans stating the obvious that this was unfair play are outrageous and wrong; and that he is a respected player amongst the team. It was almost as if they were not watching the same match as majority of the cricket fans in the world. Unlucky for him, the Australian cricket teams over the years have a slight reputation for cheating in matches and getting away with it. For example, Justin Langer in the late 90s had walked past a batsman’s stumps and knocked the bails off so that he could be ‘hit wicket’ out. ICC did not review the case even though there was clear evidence and footage that he did intentionally knock the bails off.

The reason this story irritates and angers me so much is because the very same ICC that fined Proteas test captain Faf du Plessis one hundred percent of his match fee for shining the ball with saliva while having a sweet in his mouth, is not going to fine Steve Smith for a more serious offence. There is no scientific proof of this, but it is said that sugar enhances the ball to swing more for bowlers, meaning more wickets to be taken. The Australians do love to clutch at straws when things do not go their way in a match. This is because this Mint-gate saga, as it was called, came from the Aussies media stating that it caused the South Africans to beat the Aussies in one of their worst-scoring game ever. The players and media acted all self-righteous in saying that Faf should have just followed the rules and not “tampered” with the ball, and that “rules are rules”. The very same teammates and blind Aussie fans that were discrediting and booing Faf respectively are now standing behind captain Smith for him to not get sanctioned and banned for something evident, stating it was an “honest mistake”.

As a captain for an international captain for as long as he has been, I believe you should know what is and is not allowed on the field of play. He should have known the rules. Even when Handscomb suggested he ask the dressing room for advice, he should have told him it’s not allowed, because it seems pretty evident that Handscomb himself does not know what the rules and laws in the Code of Conduct are. I, myself don’t know them by head, but I would think that not being allowed to ask people off the field for batting advice is common sense? Or am I being presumptuous here?

I am extremely disgruntled that this case is not being reviewed: it was reported within five days after the match, there is that “in-your-face” nothing-hidden-or-complicated evidence of what happened. While there has not been much spoken on the other times the Aussies looked up at the dressing room for a review, it still cannot be classified a “brain-fade” if you’ve done it more than once. Let me put it like this: Faf said that there was no intention for his so-called “ball-tampering” when shining the ball. With this, it is something that all players have done, in which he had a huge amount of support from current and former cricketers on the matter. He still got fined 100 percent of his match-fee, though; a real storm in a teacup, if you ask me. Smith on the other hand, knows the rules, is a captain, and took advice from a batsman who has only played six test matches for his country.

If you were to ask me right now: do I feel that Steve Smith was left off way too lightly? I’ll say yes, without a doubt. ICC’s chief executive, David Richardson was utterly disgusted and “disappointed” when Faf appealed the ICC’s original decision when he was found guilty. But Richardson wants fans to know that the repercussions, or lack thereof, that were taken with Smith and Virat Kohli were acceptable and fair. I’m not once suggesting that there may be a great deal of corruption or ill-dealings within the ICC camp, but I just want someone, anyone, to explain clearly to me as to why Steve Smith will not get charged for this “mistake” he’s made here, and that if Faf made a mistake, why was he heavily fined for something that has no scientific proof. Mark my words: this is sure to have a very interesting effect come the next test match between these two countries. Peace talks were set to place; whether the two captains left with peace and without bruised egos remains to be seen.

Selective Players Are Detained for Similar Emotions

I may not be the most important person in the world, but to me, it sounds like the Australians are not confident in their own team, that they have to use such undermining and cheeky tactics in order to attempt to win a series. What will make the series victory even sweeter for South Africa is if they do it without Kagiso Rabada in the line-up.

hindustantimescom4
Kagiso Rabada’s passion is now interpreted a send-off to Australian batsmen. Image: hindustantimes.com

An incredible test match between South Africa and Australia is once again spoken about for drama off the field. Maybe not so much off the field, but definitely not much focus is on the actual cricket. We are only two matches into this test series, and I am already exhausted from all the emotions I’ve been experiencing since the de Kock-Warner incident. AB did tweet that this would be a series to remember. He was not wrong.

The sanctions that Quinton de Kock and David Warner received just after the first match were fair, and it was a miracle that Warner was fined at all. Many were calling for him to be banned from the second match because of his actions, with him nearly getting physical if he wasn’t held back. Moving on to the second test in Port Elizabeth, many (including me) were expecting slight fireworks between the two, but for the sake of moving on and getting on the cricket, they were reasonably civil.

I will come out immediately and say that I am still against sledging. I said a while ago that I am not for what it does or brings into the games, because things can get personal very quickly. de Kock was extremely wrong for saying whatever he said about Candice Warner, but it also goes to show that Warner himself should watch what he says to others about their families. The Aussies always speak of this “line” that they do not/should not cross, but none of them want to define what it entails.

indiatvnewscom
The Indians, Australians and English often have worse celebrations, but most the time get off without issue by the ICC. Image: indiatvnews.com

Kagiso Rabada of South Africa, who has recently been named as the number one test bowler in the world, was handed a hefty two-match suspension due to his climbing number of demerit points dished out by the ICC. Why, you ask? Well, one sanction was for allegedly giving David Warner a send-off after clean bowling him for 19 in the second innings of the second match. Was there a send-off? If screaming “yes yes yes” going towards his teammates counts as a one, then yes. The second sanction was an impending one that was for apparently showing some animalistic intent in walking past captain Steve Smith, bumping his shoulder in the process. Smith immediately turned around and put some performance on as if Rabada had just dislocated his shoulder, making it an issue for him to score runs for the rest of series.

The way the ICC has gone about disciplining grown men with the points system is now starting to show its cracks. How do Rabada and Sri Lanka’s Niroshan Dickwella get three demerit points each for bumping into each other? How does Rabada’s grazing of Smith’s shoulder even compare in terms of punishment to what Warner did and said to de Kock? In him getting the same number of points than that of Warner, which is what is being implied. How does the ICC charge Rabada for giving a send-off to Warner but there are bowlers like Mitchell Starc practically screams in batsman’s face when he takes their wicket? How does that not count as a send-off? Virat Kohli, who is a player I give great respect to, gave many send-offs to batsmen when they toured South Africa, even lower order batsmen, and the ICC did nothing. How close is the ICC actually monitoring games? Many people will argue that Mitchell Marsh getting a match fee docking and a demerit point for swearing at Rabada should not have happened, but for the sake of fairness it should have.

Overall, I think of Rabada’s punishment as one a little too harsh. I would have just left it at the match fee dockings. I seriously doubt that he gave Warner a send-off, let alone one that was worth a demerit point in the match. Maybe he’ll learn to celebrate in a different way, but it remains to be seen. What Kohli, Warner, and Smith deem emotional celebrations, fans of opposing teams get called “whiny” for complaining about how over the top they can be. It isn’t a problem for the ICC though. However, the second a celebration in that manner happens with a Protea, it’s a send-off and can trigger a reaction from the batsman.

shiftsearchcom
Overall support for this test series may dwindle due to the ICC banning the number one test bowler. Image: shiftsearch.com

There’s a thought amongst fans that the Aussies actually planned to get Rabada banned, as Smith had spoken to the press and said how his team were planning to rile Rabada and du Plessis up due to their accumulation in demerit points. The video footage shows that Smith purposefully slowed down to walk into Rabada, with him moving his away. Where Jeff Crowe found intention there against KG, I’m not sure. Another thing that shows that the Aussies are not as genuine and full of sportsmanship as they say, is that in the beginning Smith said they were hoping to get Rabada going, but saying that they want him to play after the second match. The next day, assistant coach Brad Haddin says that Rabada being suspended is a bonus. I may not be an important person in the world, but to me, it sounds like the Australians are not confident in their own team, that they have to use such undermining and cheeky tactics in order to attempt to win a series. What will make the series victory even sweeter for South Africa is if they do it without Kagiso Rabada in the line-up.

The Aussies have more power than they let on, and they could probably do more than Cricket South Africa ever could if one of their own was given the same punishment. If more players were being sanctioned the way KG is, teams would only field six or seven players. The ICC want to know why test cricket is dying, they need to look at how they’ve just killed this test series.

Twitter: @YorkerCorker_

Sledge As Much As You’re Willing To Take: An Article Long Overdue

While sledging does add that factor of interest towards a series, players should be able to back up all the trash talk with actual skill.

indiacom2
The series between India and Australia as riddled with sledging, which was the main focus before the series started. Image: india.com

Last year, I read a news article where Australian captain Steve smith was at a press conference just after his squad arrived in India prior to the test series. The headline of this article, as well as the article itself, stated that smith basically admitted that his side was going to sledge their way through the tough Indian series that was coming up.

Straight off the bat (no pun intended) every team sledges. Just to clarify, it’s a part of the game, and it’s sole purpose is to use verbal remarks to inevitably mess up a player’s mental concentration. This is done by usually the fielding side, to get the batsman out quicker. This mostly happens to batsmen at the crease, but bowlers do also get sledged by the batsmen. Sometimes, as you can expect when grown men with an overwhelming amounts of testosterone and high emotions in a match, the sledges become slightly… overbearing. The ICC, technically, does not have much of an issue with sledging, provided that there’s no swearing or defamation to one’s character (and that it is not picked up over the stump microphones). However, is that not what sledging is in a way?

As previously mentioned of the test series between the Aussies and Indians, this series was one with a massive amount of drama. This being from pitches being deemed dangerous and not suitable for play due to how much grass, or lack thereof, there was on it, to Steve Smith’s dressing room review ‘brain fade’. Many teams do not usually have much success in India when it comes to the turning tops of the wickets and the heat, so in Smith stating to the press that they were going to focus more on their sledging gave me the impression that the team were not confident in winning the series as confidently as they always claim to be on other tours. Why rely on an idea (of actively sledging) where it can get you into more trouble than you would like? Is it because you know you will get away with it, reason being that it is in the spirit of the game and it is all passion?

blogpickstarcomau
Sometimes, players need to be quiet on the field and show more skills with the bat and ball instead of the incessant sledging. Image: blogpickstar.com.au

Now we focus to more recent times. Before this series even began, there was a cloud of drama looming in the air, with the visitors requesting that the stump microphones be turned down or off. The question here is why? What is there to hide? What did the Aussies plan to say during the matches that the mics needed to be turned down? What has come out today is a spat between David Warner and Quinton de Kock that went down the personal route between them both that was caught on CCTV footage which was leaked. The situational irony here is that Australia had put on a show for the stump mics to be turned down so that they could sledge in piece, but cameras still caught them.

But where is the line drawn? There seems to be a line that is created between teams where there is space to poke and poke at another player to the point of slightly uncomfortable reactions. If certain players are only going to be known being a bully on the field where you get personal all the time, you do not deserve any respect. I think of this line and how certain teams use this line to their advantage like this: the line of sledging tactics. It’s a line so thin, it’s almost transparent. When a player from India, Australia, or England steps over this line of sledging, directing it towards another player, they will be expected to step closer and closer in retaliation. The minute the target stands so much as on the line, the instigator will jump off this line so quickly and cry wolf. This so-called line between sledging and getting personal, on or off the field does not exist. And this incident between de Kock and Warner shows it. I spoke in a previous article by which I had questioned how genuine the Aussies were in creating videos of the South African team where they speak on the respecting the opposition, but immediately go and speak so ill of their family?

I’ll conclude by saying that while sledging does add that factor of interest towards a series, players should be able to back up all the trash talk with actual skill. Saying that you will focus on sledging more than trying to combat the issue of not being able to play spin is a rubbish statement. I’m not sure what the punishment will be for Warner and de Kick, but both are guilty of taking things too far in statements. I do hope no suspension will take place, but a hefty fine may just make their way to them. But who knows? Maybe the ICC will let Warner get off scot-free. No-one knows, but one thing’s for sure is that this series and story will have many glued to their phones and televisions for the rest of the series.

 

Remaining fixtures in this series:

  • South Africa vs. Australia 2nd Test: Friday 9-13 March 2018 St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth
  • South Africa vs. Australia 3rd Test: Thursday 22-26 March 2018 PPC Newlands, Cape Town
  • South Africa vs. Australia 4th Test: Friday 30 March-3 April 2018 Bidvest Wanderers, Johannesburg

Proteas Injured in ODI Series, Literally

A look at where South Africa and India stand in the current ODI series two matches in.

MATCH ONE: THURSDAY, 1st FEBRUARY 2018

South Africa vs India - First One Day International
A commanding victory with India in complete control throughout.  Image from: indianexpress.com

The hype had been brought up by fans. Could the starting eleven for each game bring in an idea as to what team Cricket South Africa selectors could go with in the World Cup next year (provided no players take the dreaded Kolpak deal out of nowhere)? Personally, I was looking forward to this series, not only did I manage to get my Pink Day tickets early, but I could start looking forward to picking my dream eleven for the World Cup in England I am breaking my back to save up for… and I genuinely enjoy ODIs a lot.

South Africa won the toss and bat first in Kingsmead: a ground in which many believe should no longer host cricket matches. I won’t give my opinion on that anytime soon. Major loss to the Proteas is losing AB to an injured finger, therefore having him sit out for the first three games of the series. Although, it’s not injured enough that he can play golf… moving on.

The hosts’ top six gave the same problems of not scoring enough runs to have the lower order worry if the next number of runs is crucial enough to win the match. We had Morris and Phehlukwayo contributing more of a partnership as well as runs than de Kock did. At the end of SA’s batting innings, a decent 269-8 was made thanks to Faf’s 120. India needed 270 to draw first blood in the series.

The men in blue managed to chase the total relatively easily with five overs to spare and six wickets in hand after Phehlukwayo took two wickets of Kohli (112) and Rahane (79). It was not enough to fix the damage that was South Africa’s under-par bowling and less than impressive bowling. Kohli took win him a man of the match century which boosted his team 1-0 in the six match.

India needs to win the series 4-2 or better to overtake the Proteas in rankings to become number one.

 

MATCH TWO: SUNDAY, 4th FEBRUARY 2018

hindustantimescom3
Caught out! South Africa’s top six failed to get a start to result to produce a comeback win. Image from: hindustantimes.com

More bad news strikes the Proteas camp, with Captain Faf being ruled out for the remainder of the India tour because of an injured finger. While some Indian fans were rejoicing at this news, it made me say to myself: if they are rejoicing so much for Faf and AB’s injuries, it shows how much faith they have in their own side in these conditions. That thought quickly went out of my mind the minute this match ended.

Aiden Markram, whom has some experience captaining a national squad, was boldly placed as interim captain for the rest of the ODI series. Heinrich Klaasen, Khaya Zondo and Farhaan Behardien were called up into the squad should anymore injuries occur. Two changes were made to the eleven, with Zondo as well as Tabraiz Shamsi for Faf and Phehlukwayo.

India had won the toss, and opted to bowl first. If there is any evidence that the Proteas struggle with even the slightest hint of spin, this match would have be the perfect case study in any textbook. Silly shots were played all around, but also credit should go to the Indian bowlers for producing some movement in a pitch that is not notorious for a lot of spin. It managed to make the SA batters’ heads spin, which lead to the oh-so-predictable collapse of the Proteas seeing them at 107-6 in the 28th over. The top six had failed again. Miller had failed to get a good score again. He may average 50 in limited over games, but right when his team needed him to step up as ‘Killer Miller’ he failed to make it his time. 118 was the total scored before South Africa were bowled out, with five wickets going to Yuzvendra Chahal. A bizarre call had been made by the match referee to call lunch when India needed two more runs to win. One more thing that showed how fed up Proteas fans are with inconsistent performances could also be how fans left the stadium, and how many remained to watch the last two runs to be scored. India managed to steamroll the hosts, chasing down 119 with ease and only losing one wicket.

Currently sitting 2-0 in the series, India will be sitting pretty for the next game tomorrow (Wednesday 7 February at 1pm local time). South Africa will be wondering what went wrong within the team and what can be done in terms of having the right combinations. They will be missing de Kock due to wrist injury, meaning Klaasen will definitely play. To keep Miller in the eleven and not put Behardien in the mix will be a decision on blind faith in that the teams needs to bounce back in order to win the series and retain the number one ranking. Is this really our best effort with the bat and ball? If so, we could crash out of the World Cup next year before knock-out rounds even start. This lacklustre performance should be a wake-up call to everyone in the Proteas set up. Stop blaming the pitches, control the controllables. If you want to be world class, you must learn to adapt, adapt quickly.

 

Giddy Ngidi Gets Six on Debut

It definitely is a bowling partnership that Protea fans can witness for a long time – hoping that injuries stay away and consistency stays.

hindustantimescom2
An impressive start into test cricket for debutant Lungi Ngidi as he got a six-for, ending the match on 7-90. Image: hindustantimes.com

Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada lit up the fans of the Proteas with the scorecard come the end of the second innings, as they were involved in taking the last ten wickets South Africa needed to take an unassailable 2-0 lead into the test series. Many would have hoped that the wicket of Centurion would have been a traditional fast bowlers’ paradise; what was prepared was something not totally unplayable, but suited maybe for the spinners. Some would say it was suited more for the Indian batsmen more than the Proteas.

Not much to can be said about the second match. I personally found it to be lacking in the intensity that was shown in the first game. Still a very interesting one to watch, but the intent that India wanted to show may have backfired against them.

As the toss occurred, news had been that Faf requested his men to bat first as well as have Ngidi debut at his home ground in Centurion. South Africa made 335 all out, with Aiden Markram top scoring with 94 before being caught out. Hashim Amla scored second highest with 82 but was then run out. After AB had gone out, Faf was left to watch two of his batting partners (de Kock and Philander) fall cheaply before the end of day one. Day two started with Faf and Maharaj playing to make a good enough score, with massive help from the lower order to keep the tail wagging slightly to make a semi-decent 335.

With India batting just after lunch, they had been going steadily until Morkel took a great catch off his own bowling. Minutes later, a second had fallen as the debutant Ngidi had run Pujara out for a golden duck, leaving India on 28-2. Captain Kohli had to come and make a decent partnership with opener Vijay to put pressure on the hosts. Vijay fell just before the two reached an 80-run partnership. India had ended their batting innings on day three in the session after lunch, with Kohli putting in a magnificent captain’s knock of 153 runs.

kyrosportscom
Intent and aggression was showed when Virat Kohli made 153 in the first innings. Image: kyrosports.com

SA were to start their second innings with a 28-run lead, and had all sorts of trouble losing two early wickets of Amla and Markram, needing Elgar and AB to rescue the batting with a decent partnership. Stumps was called early on day three due to heavy rains and bad lighting.

Day four started as day three had ended, with SA increasing their lead at a tenacious rate, with runs being scored as a snail high on sleeping tablets. The pitch was going more and more in favour of the bowlers, but not being particularly impossible to play on as the Proteas had made 287 all out, with AB scoring an important 84. The South African bowlers had a day and a session to take ten wickets and defend 287 runs for the series win.

The last innings in which India needed to bat to level the series proved to be quite the interesting one, as the battle between bat and ball had started as an intense one, until Rabada and Ngidi started making inroads within the last session of day four: Rabada had bowled Vijay for 9, and Ngidi getting KL Rahul caught for four. Ngidi had been slightly unlucky in getting the wicket of Captain Kohli in the first innings, but definitely had a delivery that had his name on it. The big wicket of Kohli was Ngidi’s for the taking, and was trapped plumb lbw for 5. Indeed a wicket he will remember for a long time. Stumps had been called on day 4, with South Africa needing seven more wickets and India needing 252 more runs for victory.

Many would say that day five was definitely in South Africa’s court after getting Kohli out. True, but they still had to get the wickets of Pujara, Pandya and Ravi Ashwin who boasts relatively good averages with the bat. Ngidi and Rabada kept chipping away at the wickets in good fashion to keep India out of the game for sure. Speaking on run outs, from both teams in both innings, there had been a total of five run outs. Of those five run outs, two had gone to Pujara, as he was run out for 19 in the second innings attempting to run three.

TOPSHOT-CRICKET-RSA-IND-TEST
South Africa will be hoping to keep up the momentum when they arrive for the final clash at the Bull Ring this Wednesday. Image: cricketaddictor.com

The man of the match went to Lungi Ngidi, making him the seventh Protea to be given this award on debut. The last match in the test series is to take place at the Wanderers on Wednesday the 24th of January.

My play of the match most definitely went to the two quicks in Rabada and Ngidi taking nine of ten of the wickets to win the match and series for South Africa. It definitely is a bowling partnership that Protea fans can witness for a long time – hoping that injuries stay away and consistency stays. Now the SA selectors have to look at the type of wicket at the Bull Ring and consider the eleven to go into that match to hopefully clinch a whitewash. Will they still make do with four fast bowlers, or bring in de Bruyn and/or in place of a quick?  Or will Maharaj be dropped? Will Markram be available for the last test? He missed fielding in the last innings after sustaining a quad strain. The starting eleven may change for the last game, but hopefully nothing too drastic in that they would want to keep their ruthless mentally and go for the whitewash.

Ottis ‘Give ’em Hope’ Gibson’s Influence

It may be early to give praise to Gibson, but I just think of how long it would have been until all the young players in the Proteas would have gotten their call-up if still under Domingo.

sportsnewsonwebcom
Bring in the younger youngsters. Image: sportsnewsonweb.com

Now I personally did not want to speak on the appointment of Gibson as soon as it was announced. I am someone who does always want to see how a person adapts to a position, while they have all the necessary credentials after giving them that little bit of time. Pre-judgements are just not something I do. Hence the delay in my opinion on Gibson’s new position in the Proteas camp. How was he going to stamp his presence in this team? I wanted to wait and see until after the Bangladesh tour, but I couldn’t wait.

His appointment was one that did cause some debate as many did not know how a bowling coach would be anything but great after Russell Domingo was, essentially, given the boot by Cricket South Africa. His release then brought around the debate as to who would take his place. A local coach like Geoffrey Toyana of the bizhub Highveld Lions? Or an international coach like… an Australian? Naturally there were mixed reviews when Gibson landed the job ahead of Toyana who many had thought was a likely possibility.

So here we are.

I am so glad I waited to speak on his inclusion, and that’s because I noticed that there’s a change in attitude. I feel that the team that was booted out of the Champions Trophy that played the annoyingly safe brand of cricket has grown a slight bit of confidence and ruthlessness in their game. Albeit the Proteas are pummelling the daylights out of the out-of-our-comfort-zone Bangladesh side, there have been some performances by the team, and calls by the coach that bring back that essence of hope and depth in the squad.

Sunfoil Series: Multiply Titans v Hollywoodbets Dolphins,  day 2
Future match winners. Image: alchetron.com

This tour was a great one for Gibson to explore with the upcoming talent that is in the domestic setup in the country. For him to go to a few Sunfoil Series matches really does show that he aims to take the Proteas to greater heights. He has deemed all the tours they play as preparation for the World Cup in 2019. Since his arrival, South Africa has unearthed a long-term prospect in Aiden Markram opening with Dean Elgar in the test side, and a definite choice batsman in ODIs. He still has age on his side as he is still 23. Him being the captain that steered his Under-19 teammates, like Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada and Jason Smith, to World Cup victory makes him a future prospect for a captain once the ‘Over-30 Generation’ in the squad announce their retirement. If you think he is still too young to be considered a captain, remember that he currently captains the Multiply Titans in the domestic competitions, and one former great captain of Graeme Smith was appointed as captain at the age of 22.

Wiaan Mulder is also someone who has impressed Coach Gibson as well, seeing as he made his debut at the expense of Wayne Parnell getting injured. Many think Mulder is too young as well, and I am one of them. However, I can see why Gibson brought him into the squad. He’s to soak up all the experience around him and use it to grow and get better. Honestly, his debut could have gone a lot better than it did, but in him getting a wicket is at least the first step to many more. I believe him, Dwaine Pretorius, and Phehlukwayo are the ones to watch in terms of them being game-changing all-rounders for the Proteas going further.

twittercom
Ngidi will definitely make an international comeback. Image: twitter.com

If I am on the same wavelength as Gibson, he should want to bring Lungi Ngidi back into the Proteas eleven once India arrives in the country. He had been off team sheets due to a back injury he sustained with the South Africa ‘A’ squad back in June. Upon his return to domestic cricket, he managed to take 9 wickets bowling for the Titans in the Sunfoil Series. He had made a huge shout for being called up for the Proteas during his stint against Sri Lanka earlier in the 2016 home season until an abdominal injury crept in. Now that he is back, Cricket South Africa has got to manage him well if we are to even get a glimpse of him and Rabada possibly bowling together against India. A bowling line-up consisting of Rabada, Ngidi, Philander, and a Dale Steyn that is 160% fit? Let your imagination run wild with that thought.

 

It may be early to give praise to Gibson, but I just think of how long it would have been until all the young players in the Proteas would have gotten their call-up if still under Domingo. We are set for exploring depth and getting the young guys ready for the day they make the Proteas eleven more frequently.

Devil’s Advocate on Player Selection

With the contrasting conditions in international cricket and domestic cricket, it’s easy to perform well in the latter.

Britain England South Africa Cricket
Let’s take time to think of something before discussing nothing. Image: indianexpress.com

As the strangely open-minded person that I am, I’m always having scenarios play in my head about things that could happen if they went which-ever way. That means that I’ll hear someone’s argument to something I totally disagree on and see that their way of thinking can make sense, in a weird way. Sometimes, this can be a disadvantage in having an opinion and not changing it.

Recently, I was having a discussion on Twitter with two people on where Quinton de Kock should bat in the test format. His attacking nature and ability to score runs when needed is one that is extremely valued and appreciated in the Proteas team. Now these tweeps I was conversing with were sure that he should bat at 4 because of his runs-churning way of playing, but I disagreed. He is too valuable of a player to have higher than 6 if the top order has a collapse, and then has no time to rest before going to keep wicket. Who bats, if Quinny is at 7, after him? Philander? If the top six only manages to get 175-6 in the first innings to put up a total, it will be QdK and Vernon trying to rescue the innings, for sure. But what if QdK was batting higher up and Bavuma went out slightly cheaply? Vernon would end up batting with the tail. I was convinced that he should bat higher up, up until this third test match against England. If we are to place him any higher, the highest should be 5 or 6. Him being an attacking player in a spot where you need to grind it out if the opening pair go out is a little too risky, in my opinion. If a collapse happens and he’s part of the top 4, there is a valuable player gone out.

Another thing I’ve seen amongst Twitter fans is how we (yes, I do it too, but I’ve tried not to) say one thing when things are going well about a certain player/players, but call for his/their head when they play appallingly. Now, I will say that I often eat slices of humble pie to feed a family of sextuplets, hence now I try look at things more objectively. One thing I’ve realised, clearer that ever, is that Sunfoil Series (four-day domestic cricket in South Africa) and international cricket are EXTREMELY difficult. And the reason a lot of the players do well there is because the players in that set up are, with all possible respect, are not international level yet which makes them a lot easier to face… especially if they have been playing for a club for a number of years. Hence the problem we face with Heino Kuhn now. He is extremely talented, and many people were calling for him to play in the test squad as far as last year August against New Zealand for the misplaced two-test series in South Africa. Now that he’s in the squad, he isn’t really making an overly amazing impression; there are calls for the young Aiden Markram to replace him. But, what if he too does not live up to our expectations of him and goes out for less than ten if he debuts in the last match of this series? Should he also get dropped because he’s not good enough? If not, should we not take the same approach when looking at Kuhn and be more patient?

The CSA selectors, bless them, are also now in the firing line for the performances of the team. For example; the selection of Chris Morris over Dwaine Pretorius is one that is being talked about often. Personally, I didn’t have any expectation of him in this series because I know how erratic and expensive he can be. Don’t get me wrong; the guy’s got pace and skill and bowls a mean yorker, good with the bat at the back-end of an innings, but he’s too all over the place when bowling, and expensive. And he also selected because of his ability to bat with the tail. In this series, he’s yet to prove it. What the sad thing is, I had a feeling he would perform like this in the series. So I was secretly hoping de Bruyn would come back in the side, as it wasn’t really fair for him to get the chop in that game or this one. It would have been extremely great for Pretorius to play in this tour, but one cannot guarantee for sure that he would have made many dents in the England batting line-up. We’ll never know, sure, but it’s pretty unfair to assume he would and then fans become disappointed with him and say he’s not international standard if he performs below-par. I am a very big fan of Pretorius, but we cannot be sure he would have been selected in the first eleven, let alone a key player in the line up.

cricbuzzcom1
Good in patches, but Morris is not really good for tests. Image: cricbuzz.com

I can understand why CSA would not field more than one debutant in the eleven as opposed to Australia and England. However, what may work for other countries may not work us, too. You want to field your best eleven with players that have faced against tough opposition. With that being said, I get that you would want to see how new players fair in the international circuit, but when I think of that, I think immediately back to the Sri Lanka 3-match T20 series. We gave more than four guys a debut in each team, with Lungi Ngidi being the only permanent prospect to play for South Africa. We lost that series 2-1, and deservedly so. In those games, we had players pay poor shot selection, dropped catches, and missed run-outs. It may not seem like a valid example because of the cries for international T20 series to be scrapped, but it’s still something to think about in terms of selecting many debutants in a match/series. CSA should think a little more in terms of what they want from the team when selecting one, apart from just winning. Do they want to just win to heighten our chances at moving to number 1 in rankings, or do they want that to happen while given guys the experience they need for the future?

This article is not meant to pick and choose a side in the way things are being discussed, but more to say let’s look at both sides of the story before we cast major judgement. If the pros out-weight the cons, then great; if not, then okay.