Can We Possibly Move On from the Mind-Games?

Reverse psychology? Maybe. Could there be a solution to this? Absolutely: shut up with the psychological warfare, and get on with the game!

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An interesting Test series is looming come Thursday, but the forced humility is a little bit irritating. Image: cricket.com.au

It could be possible that as I’ve grown into a Westernised equivalent of an adult, I’ve also developed the slight side effect of viewing things from a cynical point of view. With a slight hint of doubt. However, I will just go with the assumption that my view is not the only one out there.

Recently, the Australian test team currently touring in South Africa decided that they needed to make a video on why they think AB de Villiers is such a great batsman. This is not the first time they have done a video like this before playing South Africa in a test series. The team spearheaded by Steve Smith had recorded four more videos in 2016, sitting in a room with a backdrop of black, having their faces be the centre of focus throughout the entire video speaking specific players in the Proteas squad who they admire, and what they think of the squad as a whole. The first video spoke about Dale Steyn, the second on Kagiso Rabada, the third on AB, and the fourth on the Proteas team as a whole.

Why do this? Why is Australia out to make themselves look like they are the most humble team of test playing nations? Why go through so much time speaking to a starting eleven asking them the same question, in which you expect the same answer? What satisfaction do they get out of speaking of how the opposition in a series of videos as opposed to just saying a one-liner in a press conference? Why do they not do these sucking-up videos with other teams like India, Pakistan, or New Zealand? The Ashes media hype does not count because it is all for a boring series, especially when things get one-sided.

If I think back to the 2016 test series between these two countries, it was a rather eventful one. The MintGate saga occurred, Dale Steyn dislocated his shoulder and South Africa was down one bowler on day two of the first test, it was the Proteas’ first Pink Ball match. It may seem that all the things that could have gone wrong for South Africa did, and that they were destined to be beaten by the Aussies. They choked in the first match and did not even try in the second. They came back in the third, but it was too little too late.

I was a first year student in 2016, studying furiously for my end of year exams when the series took place. I may have been in my psychological state of mind due to late nights cramming psychology content, but I felt after that series that all of those videos made may not have been to intimidate the Proteas into fearing for a difficult series Down Under, but they had come off a strong ODI series whitewash win and were prepared for anything: their confidence may had just been strengthened for that tour. Reverse psychology? Maybe. Could there be a solution to this? Absolutely: shut up with the psychological warfare, and get on with the game! I sometimes think that the Baggy Greens do enjoy the sounds of their own voices due to some of the things said. That is not a problem, usually, if the mind-games do not backfire and you win games convincingly. However, that takes away from how “genuine” these comments about players in the videos are just before a series takes place. Am I still being a cynic in making a comment like this?

Newlands Test Tug-O-War, Proteas Victorious

This was definitely a test match to be remembered had the result gone either way. It was a match in which the bowlers from both teams performed magnificently.

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Philander took a career best 6-42 to bowl the Proteas to victory. Image: cricketaddictor.com

A series that Indian and South African fans had been waiting for finally has started; and what a test match it was. Having high expectations for the series, this test definitely showed that cricket fans are definitely in for a treat. It is the first match of the tour, and it has already had more action than the whole Ashes series.

The build up going into the game had Cricket South Africa and the ground staff at Newlands making sure that there was a substantial amount of green on the wicket: this being for the hope that the Proteas starting line up would have the four-pronged pace attack of Steyn, Rabada, Morkel, and Philander. With the dreadful drought in Cape Town at the moment, rain dances would have been performed before the match in hope of getting some green on the wicket.

The biggest shock may have been Faf’s decision to bat first at the toss, especially looking back at how much emphasis had been placed on the pitch and how it would work in favour of the South African bowlers. Most would have jumped at the opportunity to bowl first.

With the Proteas batting first, they had seen themselves batting with caution due to Elgar, Markram and Amla’s wickets falling to have the scorecard at 12-3. AB and Faf put on a helpful partnership which saw them both achieve their half centuries. Eventually the batsmen managed to put 286 runs on the board before being bowled out. It was time to see the bowlers put in their magic in the field.

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Hardik Pandya was the pick of the Indian players for his 94 runs and 3 wickets in the first match. Image: timesofindia.com

India found themselves at 92-7, before being rescued by Pandya and Kumar putting on a very handy 99-run partnership to bring India to 209 before being bowled out. This gave Faf’s men a lead of 77 that could have been more.

Starting the second innings was a rocky one for South Africa, losing two quick wickets to Pandya just before stumps on day two. Day three was washed out, which was a much needed downpour (even though some people said the rain was being a pain).

Day four started with Amla and night-watchman Rabada at the crease on 59-2. Wickets falling quickly saw the Proteas on 130-9, before AB was caught at the boundary rope trying to go for a maximum. The fight back needed by SA pacers was always going to be a tough ask as they were a bowler short (Steyn ruled out of the test series for four-six weeks due to a bruised heel) and only having to defend 208 runs.

Wickets were falling coming at a smooth rate thanks to Morkel and Philander, leaving India three wickets down with 39 on the board when Indian captain Virat Kohli came on to bring the victory to his camp. A partnership worth a meagre but worrying 32 came to an end when Philander bowled Captain Kohli out for 28. Elation was shown from the Proteas and supporters knowing how important his wicket was. Sharma was offered a lifeline when Maharaj dropped a sitter off his bat, only to chop a delivery off Philander onto his stumps. The Indian star of the first innings in Pandya had hopes to replicate his 93 to bring India back into the game. He was caught by AB for 1 an over after Sharma’s dismissal.

A partnership of 49 between Ashwin and Kumar kept the Indian tail wagging, before Philander starred again, breaking their partnership at 49 and claiming Ashwin’s wicket. The last two wickets were picked up in the 42nd over, giving Philander a career best of 6-42.

South Africa won by 72 runs, bowling out the visitors for 135 runs. They are now 1-0 up in the three-match series. This was definitely a test match to be remembered had the result gone either way. It was a match in which the bowlers from both teams performed magnificently. My own gripe with the match is how the Protea bowlers could have wrapped up the innings a lot quicker than they did, for they let the tail wag a little more than they should have. Now what will be discussed is who will replace Dale Steyn in the squad. Go with an all-rounder? Bring back Temba Bavuma or Theunis de Bruyn? Or will they bring in an out-and-out pacer in Lungi Ngidi?

Big Ben’s Brawl

How is punching someone almost fifteen times a mistake?

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Ben Stokes really stoked everyone’s anger and disappointment. Image: thesun.co.uk

As many people on Twitter do, everyone had something to say about the whole ordeal. Many people are livid about what he’s done, but some are defending him. Now, I’m about to just mention some comments (not the exact tweets, but along these lines) that had me thinking “what?” Let me know if you agree or not.

 

“Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t be so hard on him.”

– How is punching someone almost fifteen times a mistake? A mistake is buying whole-wheat bread instead of plain brown.

“Hey man, men fight.”

– If so, then he should not be in a place in his life where  everything he does will be put on social media and ruin his reputation. For someone who has been getting into trouble for his anger, he should have known better.

“He was drunk; no wonder he acted the way he did.”

– I’ll come in his defence here and say that he can drink if he wants to. Just don’t act like someone who can’t handle their alcohol.

“It was off the field. It has nothing to do with us.”

– Would things be better if they were on the field? It does have something to do with the fans if it’s caught on camera, or even reported on with significant evidence.

“The guys he hit had a bottle. He was defending himself.”

– This may be because I am a female, but if I saw someone with a bottle coming towards me, I would not fight them. Whether it’s broken or not, it’s still a weapon. Walk away. You don’t need to prove how manly you are when a potential weapon is involved.

These were just some of the comments that I saw online. To be fair, everyone has their opinion on the matter, but sometimes common sense escapes most. From watching the video, he was being held back by the people he was with. Whatever happened, was there a reason to go for fifteen to the guy’s face?

I’ve also read through the Twitter grapevine that Stokes was drinking that night. I will not be that person to say that it was, entirely, the alcohol’s fault. I will say he is within his human right to drink if he wants to, but if he is going to act in an uncivilised fashion, then he has to be dealt with the repercussions. Personally, I am glad he and Hales have been suspended from playing, but why do they still get full pay? Unfortunately, people have to understand that children who look up to them watch and pick up more than you would think from external stimuli. So what do they see when they see two international sports stars causing a ruckus after a night out drinking while still in the middle of a series?

While I was writing this post, Piers Morgan had tweeted saying that he had word from a source that Stokes was standing up for two homosexual men being bothered. If that is true, why did the source wait so long to come forward if they knew a potential saviour was at risk of getting his reputation (or lack thereof) tarnished even further? Why tell, with all respect to him, Piers Morgan of all news people?

He will honestly be very lucky if he does get on that plane to Australia for the Ashes. Ben Stokes really could have controlled the controllables.

Problems with Having Many Players Over 30

We need the selectors to have more faith and more guts in bringing in these young players to play for the country if, Heaven forbid, all our legendary players retire in quick succession.

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These are the greatest, but great doesn’t last forever. Image: zeenews.india.com

Why do South African sports teams have a tendency of fielding a lot of players that are old? This may sound strange, but what I mean is why is South Africa one of the only sports teams to have many players that are older than 30 in the squad? This is not only in cricket; but also in hockey, soccer, rugby, you name it. The SA hockey teams (both men and women) have players that have 190+ caps to their names, while playing overseas in Belgium, Australia or Holland, and are now struggling to find players older than 18 but younger than 25 to play internationally for a good 7-8 years – starting your international career at 18 is still too young, but having many players over 30 in your squad is a problem when they have to retire either voluntarily or through injury. The same can be said about rugby.

If we are to look at cricket specifically, a lot of players in the Proteas have the thought of retirement in their minds, and that’s all good considering how long some have been playing for South Africa. But how many are we talking here? Well, we have Steyn, Amla, du Plessis, de Villiers, Philander, Morkel, Tahir, and Duminy. That’s three players short of a whole squad. Now I understand that these guys bring so much experience into the team, and they have that presence that makes the opposition quake in their boots, but the reality is that they are going to leave international cricket soon (and very soon), and we need players to come in and step up.

Cricket South Africa has had this trend of not bringing in players with the talent into the squad as soon as they can, and will rest key players then give the rookies a chance. Who’s going to guide them going into that series/match? David Miller? Farhaan Behardien? That’s a serious lack of experience. CSA cannot be having players from the domestic side making their debut internationally at 33 when you have a 22 year old opener waiting in the wings. The England T20 squad in the World T20 last year had a young, but extremely experienced side that had players not older than 29, as I heard a commentator say. England is bringing in players (albeit most aren’t even from England) from a young age when they know they will have an impact on the team. Why can’t CSA do the same?

This past series where SA played England was a disaster; having a middle order change multiple times, batting order collapses where bowlers start doing the top 6’s job in digging us out of trouble, bowlers getting no-ball wickets and no-balls in general, and many other catastrophic moments. Having Heino Kuhn debut may have been based on his scores during the SA ‘A’ tour to England, but he failed to produce the goods when needed. Stephen Cook is making a case for himself to be brought back into the Proteas set up, but is it wise for a 34 year old to replace a 33 year old? Majority of the time, it was senior players that played off-key in the series. Many fans think that SA cricket is in trouble when they see the likes of Amla, du Plessis, or Morkel fluff up during a series. We have many other players that are coming through the system, but whenever SA ‘A’ plays one bad match, many are quick to say our cricket is doomed.

We need the selectors to have more faith and more guts in bringing in these young players to play for the country if, Heaven forbid, all our legendary players retire in quick succession.

My pick of players, whether they’ve played for the Proteas or not, in the next two years to watch out for:

  • Khaya Zondo
  • Lungi Ngidi
  • Wiaan Mulder
  • Aiden Markram
  • Reeza Hendricks (consistency is key)
  • Duanne Olivier
  • Andile Phehlukwayo
  • Jason Smith
  • Dane Paterson
  • JJ Smuts (he’s 28 currently, but still has a lot to offer)

I hope CSA realise this soon, and do not wait until it’s too late to bring these guys in and not have to deal with a gaping hole in the starting eleven.

 

Jennings Didn’t Slip Through the System

All I’m saying is that quota targets can be a good thing sometimes: they help actually discover more talent than you thought you had in the cricket setup

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Not an issue that Jennings had decided to pursue greener pastures in England. Image: oddreaders.com

Now before you get the idea that I’m a part of the crowd that thought that Keaton Jennings’ century was fantastic against India and that he was set for life, I actually wasn’t. Unfortunately the Corker Yorker blog did not exist at that time, so no views could have been spoken of when it happened.

I’m genuinely someone who tries to play devil’s advocate when it comes to cricket and players making their debuts or coming back into form. I definitely do not believe that because someone scored 50 off 38 balls in one match after a string of ducks and golden ducks is back to their prime state of form. If they can do that for five innings straight (depending on the format), then they are truly back on form. Feel free to disagree though.

The main focus of this short article is to focus very briefly on Keaton Jennings. As most know, he is the son of Ray Jennings who played first class cricket for South Africa. He had captained the South African U19 team in 2011 on a tour to England. He played his last Gauteng game in South Africa in March 2012. When he arrived a month later, he spent the next four years playing domestically until he got his call up. He made his debut for the England squad in 2016 in India where he scored a century in the first innings and a duck in the second.

There was a tweet by Jacques Kallis discrediting the politics in South Africa which had infiltrated into the cricket, which was draining the talent here. He had also stated that “another one had slipped through the system”. Now, Kallis is a legend, but that statement was a little… strange. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if an opening batsman who only averaged around 35 was handed a cap to play for the country, it would have been deemed more an experiment to see how they would fair internationally rather than for his talent. I would have been very surprised to see Cricket South Africa give Jennings one if he stayed. He was not doing anything spectacular here, so his migration to England is not a real loss for SA cricket. We’re still trying to figure out whether or not AB’s coming back to test cricket, and if Duminy’s test days are done.

This test series has not been an easy one for the opening batsmen – both English and South African batsmen have struggled against the new ball, barring Dean Elgar and Alistair Cook. Jennings, however, has only managed to score into double digits twice in the six innings he’s played, often getting nicked off to the slips. He had no idea where his off-stump is, which makes the bowlers, Philander especially, hungry to cash in on his wicket. It looked like Cook didn’t have any faith in him either, as he refused to rotate the strike in the beginning of the first innings in the third test. It was only when Tom Westley had come to the crease, did these two rotate the strike better.

His previous records internationally are just as poor. He’s only scored one 50 and one century in ten innings, with an average of 25.90 and a strike rate of 44.27. That’s his whole international test career! If anyone in the Proteas team, or any other team for that matter had stats like those, they would have been dropped. Many debutants underestimate the massive change from playing domestically to internationally, and their technique is getting uncovered.

He may have scored 48 in the third test match against South Africa in this series, but that means nothing if he cannot follow through in the next game. Internationally, we don’t know what an in-form Keaton Jennings is like.

So, I ask you cricket fans in South Africa, or anywhere else in the world: is Jennings really a loss in South African cricket? All I’m saying is that quota targets can be a good thing sometimes: they help actually discover more talent than you thought you had in the cricket setup. Not everyone agrees with the targets, and that’s fine, but don’t go and state that the loss of a mediocre player is someone who has “slipped through the system”.

 

 

 

 

Get Over Those Players Who Have Taken Kolpak Deals

We need to move on from this, and forget about these players that have left us like a selfish boyfriend in a relationship.

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Can we please stop using Kolpak as an excuse. Image: iol.co.za

This is a subject I have been avoiding with all my might when Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw took their deals with Hampshire earlier this year because it made me absolutely livid as to how these guys just gave up their pride in playing for their country. But personally, these players are dead to me; undeserving of their segment in SA Cricket Magazine’s Saffas Abroad, so this is my saying that I do not like or follow these players anymore. As well as others who have gone the Kolpak route.

One thing that I have noticed with many people who follow South African cricket is that every time the Proteas lose, all blame goes towards the transformation targets as the infamous Kolpak players who are doing well in England. Bar Rossouw (to an extent) and Abbott, the rest of the players who have taken these deals had not been as explosive as they were before their Proteas call-up. First class cricket and international test cricket are two completely different formats in the skill and mentality that is needed to play it. That is something a lot of players, and fans sometimes, do not understand.

Stiaan van Zyl was a specialist opener for South Africa in late 2015 but had scored only one century which was against the West Indies, and ever since then had been not a great batsman internationally, only averaging 26.33. He signed his Kolpak deal late 2016 to play for Sussex for three years. The opener position therefore opened and Stephen Cook took that position… but not for long as his form also dropped. David Wiese: another player who when playing for the Proteas didn’t really make his presence felt like at domestic level. These are just some of the players that have signed Kolpak, but I feel like we’re not really missing these guys in the international setup. Domestically? Maybe. However internationally? It’s questionable. When these players had their shot for the Proteas (I understand you cannot fire from day one, and that is great) but over a period of time, you cannot be having below average performances for the team.

As I said previously, one thing I have noticed particularly amongst SA fans, past players etc is that whenever South Africa performs well in games, there is not one word muttered about transformation or Kolpak players and how they are missed in the winning team. But the minute things go pear-shaped for the Proteas, the obvious blame (not JP or Behardien) goes towards how transformation targets are enabling players to go Kolpak, and that the players in said match that are in the squad are not picked based on merit, and therefore sending SA cricket to the dogs. We know transformation targets and Kolpak signings are a thing, but do not use it as a scapegoat for a team that is in transition with captain debates and possible coach changes.

Kolpak deals have happened, and may still happen. If we keep using this excuse for our lacklustre performances, we will not move forward with the players we have now. If we keep on going on about how we miss Rossouw and Abbott in whatever squad, are we not giving the indication that the squad is extremely incomplete without them in squad? We have played well without both. A squad’s performance should not ever be based off only two players. The deals and targets never get spoken about when we win, so why bring it up when we lose? It’s a similar thing I had said in a previous article, coincidentally about current-Kolpaker Kyle Abbott, that if he was in the squad for SA vs New Zealand in the semi final of the Cricket World Cup in 2015 we would have won. No one knows if we would have won, and there is nothing we can do. And I really do understand that these two were extremely talented prospects for our team, but they’ve made their decision, and are gone forever. We need to move on from this, and forget about these players that have left us like a selfish boyfriend in a relationship. Let’s focus on what we still have.

If Faf Was Cheating, Then So Was Steven Smith

This is a slight problem if Steve is going to listen to a player who has only played six test matches and clearly doesn’t know the rules.

Faf du Plessis: found guilty of ball tampering after video footage surfaced of him polishing a ball with saliva mixed with mint from a sweet. Fined 100 percent of his match fee. Appealed the decision. Told by David Richardson that it’s disappointing that he was appealing, even though it was well within his right. Was booed by Australians for what happened and harassed by Aussie media in between matches. The Aussie nation was basically hurt because they felt a sweet kept the Baggy Greens from winning that test series.

Steve Smith: called out by umpire Nigel Llong and Virat Kohli for using the wrong kind of DRS (Dressing-Room Review System). Accused (but no proof of the other two times) of doing this three times over three days. Said it was a brain fade. Apart from sane cricket fans and Indian players, CA board and the rest of his team believed him (on a necessary side note, remember when ‘Saint’ David Warner crucified Faf during Mint-gate saying “I would be disappointed if any of my players did that. Rules are rules”) and backed him. So much so that the ICC didn’t sanction him.

Now hey, I’m not implying that there are some shady dealings behind the closed doors of the ICC, but something doesn’t make sense. The issue was reported within five days of the match being played. There is video evidence, which has both Kohli and Nigel Llong seeing what happened. So why was this not dealt with? Because Steve Smith said it was an accident? Is that the justification we can give nowadays?

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Disagreements before the drama happened. Image: india.com

We all remember when South Africa basically obliterated the Aussies in their own backyard late last year in tests, right? Great, because we are taking a small trip down memory lane. Apart from the win, what is the one thing you remember from that series? If you thought of the Faf du Plessis mint-gate drama, you are spot on! While, maybe, it’s still a sensitive topic for heartbroken Aussie fans that their glory boys were embarrassed at home due to an alleged swing-inducing sweet, it is something that needs to be addressed.

Earlier this month, Australian captain Steve Smith was reprimanded by umpire Nigel Llong and Virat Kohli for looking up at the dressing room for assistance on whether or not to review for an lbw. Smith had gone on to say, during the press conference, that it was a brain-fade and that he did not mean to do it or that he did not know he could not do it. This may sound a bit rude, but what kind of a captain, whom has been a captain for as long as Smith has, does not know the rules of the game?

kwesesportscomPeter Handscomb tried to divert the criticism Smith was getting onto him by tweeting it was his fault stating that it was him that said Smith must ask the teammates and staff in the dressing room. Even so, his captain should have still not done it. There’s no excuse for what he’s done. As a captain, he should have said to Handscomb that was he was suggesting is not allowed. Apologising, while it’s polite, is not really going to help anything. Do you think that even if Faf apologised, he would not have gotten such heat? Why were there no newspapers slating Smith for what he had done? Were they hyping up how Kohli had reacted than Smith’s actual offence? This is a slight problem if Steve is going to listen to a player who has only played six test matches and clearly doesn’t know the rules.

Am I wrong in assuming that checking with support staff to see if you are out or not allowed is a case of common sense? As a South African fan, because of how the Mint-gate saga rocked the cricketing nation for a bit, I am mad that the ICC is not doing a single thing about this. They just closed the matter off and told everyone to move on. I feel that they should have addressed this matter, not just a peace talk, once the heat had died down. Because this did not happen, the rest of this series could turn ugly with sledges filled with pettiness and bitterness. Did the ICC actually close the matter off on purpose to get people talking about the match/series and giving it more hype? But hey, maybe these two teams are going to act like grown men, and not let a small issue like this not get in the way of play, right?

Newspaper clipping image found at kwesesports.com.