All that’s left is for the Proteas to finish a sensational tour in style

2012-03-24 00:00

THUS far Cricket South Africa (CSA) has done little to bring an end to the Majola scandal. The man himself, having resisted calls for a dignified resignation, will continue to draw a large salary while serving the suspension that one hopes will be the final prelude to his involvement with cricket. The board itself, as anticipated, remains largely intact, but will now be chaired by the ubiquitous Dr Willie Basson.

Basson is a man I know quite well having served with him on the board of the old South African Cricket Union before he got the boot from Northern Transvaal. He is a loquacious man who wallows in the grandeur of his own vast intelligence. He is undoubtedly clever, but I have always found that those who talk too much invariably listen too little to be regarded as super smart. Like a dog who barks too often people eventually stop hearing him.

During our SACU meetings Basson used to occupy himself by writing reams of notes in laborious longhand. When I asked him what he was doing given that minutes were always provided of our meetings, he replied that he was working. “I have got more important things to do than listen to this crap”. He may find that not much has changed on the board he now chairs.

The good thing about Willie Basson is that he is hard working and forceful enough to get things done. He has spent years trying to get back into the mainstream of sport administration and now that he has done so, much will be expected of him. Unfortunately he has some cockeyed ideas about the place of white cricketers and administrators in our cricket which is as little as possible. His views are based on a numerical analysis of future demographics of the country at large without any reference to present contributions. I guess this means bad luck also for Asians and coloured folk. The more things change …

In the meantime the Proteas have been mowing down an average New Zealand team despite the shenanigans back home. It has been my experience that cricketers themselves are not affected by maladministration having long ago schooled themselves to expect little else from those occupying the lowest rung on cricket’s totem pole.

Some of the Proteas cricket, notably the bowling, has been startling in its quality. Vernon Philander has been a sensation. When he first appeared in national colours he was clearly not ready. His fielding was poor, his batting thoughtless and his bowling mediocre. He seemed like just another quota player pushed too high for his own good.

It is to his credit that once back in provincial cricket he worked extremely hard on his game. Without any fanfare he began to pick up wickets against all teams in all conditions. For a few years now provincial batsmen have felt that day in and day out he was the bowler that made them most uncomfortable. His selection for the first Test match against Australia was a credit to the astuteness of Gary Kirsten, but no surprise to his many victims in our local cricket.

There is no other bowler in world cricket who makes the batsmen play at almost every delivery. His pace is brisk, he moves the ball both ways in the air and is able to get movement off responsive pitches. Bowling from close to the wickets, like Glenn McGrath, he brings all the usual modes of dismissal into play. Nothing says more about his bowling than the fact that since his Test debut he has overshadowed Dale Steyn on every occasion.

With Steyn, Morkel and Kallis all bowling well, the Kiwis had a torrid time of it in the first two Test matches despite the unhelpful nature of the pitches. I am not sure about the merits of Tahir at Test match level. His leg spin is not threatening even on turning pitches and the better batsmen are able to pick his variations. He certainly troubles tailenders, but it remains to be seen if he can play the defensive role that is necessary in an attack with four such good fast bowlers. On lively pitches it may be tempting to replace Tahir with the very quick De Lange.

The batting of the Proteas has been mixed. Of the top six only Petersen has yet to make a score. This is something of a worry as he has reverted to his habit of yielding to soft dismissals. This is what curtailed his first spell in the team. He was another who went away and worked at his batting with commensurate results, but he needs some consistency if he is to become the solid opener this team requires.

The fact remains that the batting got away with a couple of poor first innings performances in the first two Tests. Against a team like England the batsmen cannot expect to be bailed out by the bowlers with both bat and ball if they fail to fire as a unit. Amla has looked in good touch, but seems temporarily infected by too much limited overs cricket.

I believe that playing him in T20 cricket has done his batting no favours.

I think that more should come from Philander as a batsman which seems a bit much to ask given his stellar results with the ball, but he looks well ordered at the crease. The time will come when he needs to bat in partnership with one of the batsmen and I am sure this is being drummed into him by Gary Kirsten.

With only one match to complete, this has been a good season for the Proteas. All its teams have made progress. As expected, Kirsten has been impeccably calm and clever. Smith has shown that he simply cannot be discounted either as a batsman or captain and one feels that the best is still to come from De Villiers.

It remains only for this good team to finish a successful tour in style.

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