Robbie P makes a difference

2013-02-23 00:00

LAST week I did a disservice to David Terbrugge, who was educated at St Stithians until 1994 and subsequently played seven Test matches for South Africa as a medium fast bowler between 1998 and 2004. So we can add his name to the slender list of “privately” educated students who have gone on to play for the Proteas. I have also been politely informed that one should refer now to “independent” rather than “private” schools.

My piece did, however, provoke a flurry of e-mails from those with an interest in independent schools. Some of these expressed a degree of indignation at the suggestion that privately educated children might lack that certain toughness required to be successful in the more challenging environment of the new South Africa.

David Terbrugge made the same point that I did several weeks ago when I remarked on the possibility that boys from private schools were less likely to commit themselves to a career in professional sport. This is an edited version of what he wrote:

I think the point about private school boys having more options and being pressured into finding better jobs is valid. Boys who have nothing to lose have a better crack at professional cricket than a private school boy. Put it this way, a contracted senior provincial cricketer will earn as much as an entry level banking consultant (who is probably degreed). Without a guarantee of Protea/IPL success … it’s a no-brainer unless you are Kallis or De Villiers good. Even when I was playing, I felt prejudiced by the “private school/soft” tag. It must be even worse now. The problem is the cricketing structures across the country are permeated by people who don’t know any better. I often compared myself to André Nel, who is a friend and contemporary. André, who is the same age, played more Tests than I did, made more money and was seen as a hard man where I often lived with the tag of being soft. He is now coaching Pretoria school kids and I am seven years into a banking career.”

In this toxic environment for bankers, Terbrugge could be less smug about his chosen career, but one gets the point.

On a more positive note, last Saturday I drove past Khayelitsha on my way to spending a day as a guest of the Western Province Cricket Association at the Newlands Test match. On a raised piece of ground next to the highway I noticed a group of young boys just about to begin a pick up game of cricket. I just had time to see the toss made in the time-honoured manner of throwing a cricket bat into the air before I had to concentrate again on the road. It made a heart-warming start to a delightful day at Newlands and made me realise just how much progress the Cape is making in taking cricket to all communities.

It was the first time that I had been back to Newlands since the opening game of the 2003 World Cup and the ground was in splendid condition. In many respects it is the perfect venue for a cricket match and the cricket itself did not disappoint.

The Pakistanis put up a good fight against the Proteas, but were undone in the end by the disciplined and skilled bowling attack of their opponents. This was not a pitch suited to the home team, but their bowlers settled into the tough work required to dismiss an opposition team that was determined to put behind them the misery of the Wanderers.

It is one thing to bowl teams out cheaply when conditions favour the bowlers, but world class teams can do it the hard way if necessary even when a key bowler is injured. One always felt that if the Pakistanis could scramble their way to a lead of 250 it might make matters very awkward for the Proteas on a last day pitch that was likely to favour the visitors. For quite some time this looked a real possibility, but at no stage did Smith allow the Pakistanis to get away.

The key to the Proteas’ effort when they were under the pump in the second innings was the nagging bowling of Robin Peterson, who not only dried up runs at one end, but also nicked three wickets. This allowed the fast men to bowl short spells in the stifling heat. Peterson’s bowling will not always be effective, but he is a good, thoughtful cricketer who has made a difference to this team. There is no doubt that his innings of 84 was the key performance of the Test match. Without it Pakistan would certainly have had enough runs in hand to bowl South Africa out in the last innings of the game.

The Proteas could have done without the umpiring fiasco that saw Kallis unjustly sent to the pavilion in their first innings. It is absurd that neither Steve Davis nor the eccentric Billy Bowden were familiar with the detailed laws involving referrals to the third umpire. In this case Kallis was incorrectly given out for a catch by the error-prone Davis. Kallis referred the decision whereupon it was soon clear that he had not hit the ball. Bowden and Davis then gave him out because it became apparent that the ball would have clipped the very outside of the leg stump, although the law clearly states that in those circumstances the LBW decision should have been adjudicated on the basis that the original verdict was “not out”, in which Kallis would have escaped dismissal.

Davis and Bowden have been poor umpires for too long and yet they continue to remain on the elite panel. The impact of their many poor decisions has been mitigated by the decision referral system, but bowlers, in particular, are clearly getting frustrated at not being given LBW decisions when just less than half the ball is striking a stump.

It is time for their careers to be dismissed by the umpire review system.

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