In & Out: White ball rides hot air

2015-04-26 15:00

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When New Zealand quick Trent Boult bowled Hashim Amla clean to take the first wicket of the first World Cup semifinal last month, a gust of hot air was created that, a few weeks later, gathered momentum across the Indian Ocean. It intensified, forming a thick gas cloud, and a stink set into the already stuffy South African bowling headquarters.

The widely reported Vernon Philander-Kyle Abbott “semi selection fiasco” and Boult’s rise since the World Cup were only the tips, as it turned out.

Subsequently, we learnt Proteas bowling coach Allan Donald had resigned. Then, this week, I cringed as I witnessed Dale Steyn engage in a very obvious mini publicity drive.

Donald’s official line was that it was “the right time” for him to move on, which sounded reasonable, especially after four years of coaching an attack that blew more cold than hot in the limited-overs formats.

Donald’s decision is affirmed, rather starkly, when considering that the only “South African” bowler enjoying a purple patch is a spinner. If this doesn’t serve as a strong enough signifier of a seam-rich bowling tradition in tatters, I’m not sure what does.

But behind every official line, there’s hot air waiting to waft in. And what mention of hot air would be complete without an intervention from Fanie de Villiers?

Commenting on Donald’s resignation, Vinnige Fanie implied there was more to it than met the eye. “I do not believe it at all,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there’s another story behind [Donald’s] decision. Maybe it’s a case of some players trying to work him out?”

Fanie even suggested politics might be at play in the appointment of former occasional Protea Charl Langeveldt as a “consultant” before the World Cup.

It doesn’t take an exceptionally bright person to see there is something going on in Proteas bowling, and it needs to be shaken up over the next four years if the Proteas are to make the impact they so desperately wanted at this year’s World Cup. If the Steyn situation is anything to go by, they still have a long way to go.

Last week, I wrote about how Steyn needed to reinvent himself in the limited-overs format to stay relevant. This in the face of him suddenly finding a nemesis of sorts in Boult, his Sunrisers Hyderabad team-mate.

In an “intimate” Q&A with ESPN ­Cricinfo’s Arun Venugopal this week, he indulged us (and himself) with quips ranging from “feeding peanuts to someone with a spoon”, to how he believes his force can be likened to that of the ocean.

Maybe Steyn was channelling fictional superstar baseball pitcher and consummate A-hole Kenny Powers, who once said: “A true champion?… will do whatever it takes to rise above. A man fights, and fights, and then fights some more. Because surrender is death, and death is for pussies.”

Whereas it’s clear the Phalaborwa Express does not want to stop anywhere near a place called Surrender, Donald may or may not have got Powers’ memo, and a white flag may or may not have been thrust into his hand.

@Longbottom_69 is an armchair cricket critic. He can’t wait to read Come Steyn!, the Remover’s tell-all autobiography

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