Peter Robinson

Keep your emotions in check

2005-01-25 07:35

Peter Robinson

On Sunday my cell phone bleeped with an SMS from an Australian cricket writer, clearly up early to run his eye over South Africa and England, both of whom are scheduled to meet Ricky Ponting's side in the coming year.

"Mention gilly 204 to nel to shut the boofhead up!" ran the message, a reference to Adam Gilchrist's 204 at the Wanderers four years ago. Gilchrist's double century was taken off an attack that included the aforementioned Andre Nel who took two for 121 in Australia's only innings and promptly lost his place in the side.

If Nel's bowling, along with the rest of the South African attack, made little impression on the Australian batsmen, his antics in his follow-through did.

The glares, the wide-eyed stares, the snarls were all on show. To be frank, the Australian view of Andre Nel was that he was a joke.

He was neither quick enough nor good enough to warrant the carry-on. Put plainly, who was this boofhead to sledge the likes of Steve and Mark Waugh?

It was an opinion that was shared by at least one South African selector.

"The trouble with Andre Nel," he sighed, "is that he looks like a fast bowler, he runs in like a fast bowler and acts like a fast bowler. He's just not very fast."

At the time this was an accurate assessment, but Nel came back last summer, at least couple of yards quicker, to ruffle Brian Lara's West Indians. He talked the talk and he walked the walk.

He was ordinary, though, on the slow pitches of New Zealand last February and came back from Sri Lanka with a back injury which kept him out of the Test series against England until SuperSport Park.

Dividing opinion

And on Sunday he was at it again, mugging away at Andrew Strauss before pinning the England opener on the shoulder and then persuading Strauss to slash, unwisely, at a wide one.

Nel divides opinion. Former South African opener Andrew Hudson believes Nel takes it too far and said so on television on Sunday. Others, though, argue that his behaviour signals his passion and commitment to the cause, an explanation offered, with no sense of irony whatsoever, by Nel himself.

Perhaps the secret lies somewhere in the middle. On Monday morning Nel kept a relatively straight face and bowled a load of rubbish.

On Monday afternoon, however, he picked up five England wickets to finish the innings with six for 81, grinning rather than glaring at the batsmen. It was a fine exhibition of fast bowling in conditions which seemed to wear down the rest of the South African attack.

The yorker with which Nel bowled Graham Thorpe was as good a fast ball as you could ask from anyone.

No one need doubt the effort Nel puts into his bowling. He's quick enough now to be genuinely aggressive.

But I'm inclined to think that he's a better bowler when he keeps his emotions in check. Allan Donald wasn't averse to eyeballing batsmen, but he tended to pick and choose his moments.

Nel has cited Donald as a role model. If he follows the lead set by the master, perhaps he'll persuade the Australians that he's a bit more than a boofhead.

Send Peter your views on this column.

  • Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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