From short and ribby to full and straight

2013-03-31 10:00

Allan Donald said his bowlers looked to emulate the Pakistani swing kings in their execution of the yorker. How close are the Proteas to mastering the art, asks Khanyiso Tshwaku

Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis turned the yorker into an art form.

They shifted the bowling landscape from “short and ribby” to “full and straight”.

Because of reverse swing, reinforced cricket boots with jackboot points became the new requirement instead of just arm and chest guards.

South Africa, unfortunately, has never been able to tick that box very effectively and the specialists who were entrusted did not have a long-enough run to justify their places.

Titans T20 specialist Alfonso Thomas was one of those who never got an extended trial run.

As a Kolpak player, he has made peace with the fact that he may not play for the Proteas.

But he believes South Africa’s death bowling can get better.

“Allan Donald has identified it as a possible problem area for South Africa. I firmly believe that there is enough quality in the team to take them to the Champions Trophy final,” said Thomas.

“Rory Kleinveldt showed at the Wanderers he’s more than capable of doing it. At his pace, Dale Steyn has to be able to do it and I have faith in him that he’ll be able to do it. I’m hoping they’ll come good in England.”

Thomas, who represented South Africa in one T20 international, is well versed in the murky art of death bowling.

With 181 T20 domestic games under his belt, his services are rendered around the world.

Such thuggery, Thomas said, required willingness from the individual to take responsibility.

Another way of putting it is the cliché that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Thomas said: “You cannot expect one guy to do it all the time, but as a bowler you would want to do it. It’s of no use if the bowling coach comes to you and tells you that you’ll be bowling at the death. There’s no way the guys will stand up to the bowling coach and say they are not comfortable doing it, otherwise they’ll lose their jobs.”

Getting death bowling right, according to Thomas, is about committing to the delivery and trying to get it right most of the time.

Sluggers like MS Dhoni, Thomas said, preyed on bowlers’ mental deficiencies and their inability to cope with the relentless pressure of having to get it right.

“If I could bowl the yorker every time at will, I would be a multimillionaire. As a bowler, you have to commit to it and trust what you have been doing,” Thomas said.

“If you think about the negative result that could come, then nine out of 10 times you are going to travel. If you embrace the moment, the chances of getting it right will favour you more.”

The art of death bowling

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