Apprentices not yet up to grade

2013-01-26 00:00

“I HAVE got a good mind to fire the whole bloody lot of you” is one of the iconic phrases from Lord Alan Sugar’s reality show, The Apprentice, in which he puts a number of young people through their paces with the dubious reward for the winner of full time employment with the great man himself. I am sure that Gary Kirsten must be of a mind to say something similar to his bunch of apprentices that allowed an ordinary New Zealand team to win the ODI series even before the final match.

This series against a team that was hammered in the Test matches was a perfect opportunity for the group of wannabes that have aspirations to make a good living from the game of cricket.

Reinforced by several experienced players, the Black Caps were expected to provide some decent opposition provided their star batsmen, Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill, struck any kind of form.

As it turned out, McCullum and Guptill (who made a couple of ducks) failed in the first two matches, yet the Kiwis still won the series.

Their apprentices played better than ours under conditions which were alien to our visitors. This is worrying for those people like Kirsten who are relying on a steady stream of talent emerging from the system and a disturbing refrain of the disastrous tour to Zimbabwe where our apprentices were also given a hiding.

When young players are drafted into the national squad, it is expected that they have a certain level of skills and that the basics of the game have been drilled into them. It is then up to them to demonstrate that they can play under pressure at a higher level. Some will make it, but others will fail.

On the evidence of the two matches at Paarl and Kimberley, most of the current crop of apprentices will fail and that includes the yet to bud captaincy of AB de Villiers whose captaincy record is beginning to have an ominously disappointing feel about it.

One rarely gets the impression about AB’s captaincy that he is in charge of matters on the field. No balls and wides get bowled by the bowlers without so much as a flicker of concern from the anointed successor to Graeme Smith. He may be whispering a sotto voce note of disapproval to the offenders, but without any apparent modification of performance.

Nor did it seem to dawn on AB that the dilatory behaviour of his bowlers could cost the entire team their not inconsiderable match fees apart from a damaging suspension to himself.

It is interesting that some teams have fallen into the sharp practice of appointing one of the lesser lights to be the ceremonial captain in the hope of preventing any penalty falling upon the genuine captain. I doubt if the ICC match referees will fall for this kind of malarkey more than once or twice, but it does illustrate a level of awareness that seems foreign to our lot.

In any case, the presentation of at least 30 extra runs to the opposition is a form of generosity that even the best ODI teams cannot afford and which certainly cost the Proteas the first match at Paarl.

Quite clearly Gary Kirsten “had a word” with the culprits and this aspect was much better in the second match at Kimberly.

Just why something so important was not drummed into the bowlers at their franchises is beyond me and poor Gary has more to think about than the basic skills of his players.

In Kimberly, however, an under eleven skill, that of running between the wickets, appeared to elude the batsmen.

This problem has been manifest in the Test team for some time, so I suppose it is expecting too much for the apprentices to have learnt much from watching their betters.

The rot was started by the captains in the team. Smith seems to have forgotten that his speed between the wickets is no longer that of a youngster.

It was silly of him to risk taking on a throw when he was so in control of the match.

Smith’s dismissal brought in the interim skipper, Faf du Plessis, whose running between wickets contributed to the World Cup defeat against New Zealand in the last World Cup.

He had hardly reached the crease when he called for a run that would have required a flying Usain Bolt at the other end to have had a smidgeon of success.

The team was suddenly under pressure. Now it was up to the apprentices. After a couple of unproductive overs, Colin Ingram tried to hit over the top and was caught for a well played 79. His dismissal was followed by a spell of nervous batting by Behardien and Miller.

These two scored just 45 runs in 64 balls. Time and again they drilled the ball at fielders perched on the edge of the inner ring. It never occurred to them that singles were available by playing with soft hands.

This would have forced the inner fielders closer and then made it easier to hit over the top once they had settled in. Batting is really quite simple if the stuff between the ears is occasionally used.

These two eventually succumbed to the run out malaise in which the worst examples were yet to come.

Kleinveldt botched an easy run when his bat got stuck in the turf as he was trying to slide it home.

Morkel, who has often been guilty of dopey cricket, then stopped to chat with Tsotsobe in the middle of a run.

He then ambled down the pitch blissfully unaware that a throw was on the way.

It was a pity that he was saved by the third umpire who gave him the benefit of the doubt by the narrowest of margins. Had he been given out, it would have been an appropriate finale to a video lesson on how not to run between wickets.

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