New men, new methods, new equipment spice up the ancient game

2009-11-18 00:00

SITTING in the dugout next to the South African players on Sunday at their 20/20 encounter against England and watching our opening batsmen pounding the hapless English bowlers to all corners of the ground gave me a chance to reflect on how much the limited overs game has changed.

I remember playing 45-over Benson and Hedges cricket in the early 1990s for Natal. Peter Rawson, the former Zimbabwean, was our opening bowler. Rawson often bowled all his overs on the trot and it was uncommon for him to concede more than a run an over. He was not super-quick, simply medium-fast, but miserly and deadly accurate.

Rawson was an aggressive bowler with an intimidating presence at the wicket. As a young cricketer beginning my career, I was very pleased to be on the same side as him. If any batsmen from the opposing team had the audacity to try something other than a forward defence — a slog perhaps, a double-step or an attempt to hit over the top — Rawson would be fuming and he’d let the batsman know that it would be a good idea not to try that again.

On Sunday, while Loots Bosman and Graeme Smith were setting Centurion alight and the English bowlers were enduring a torrid time, Mark Boucher lent forward and said to me, “Remember Peter Rawson?”

As we watched the Protea openers scoring over 14 runs an over with many shots never to have appeared in the pages of the MCC coaching manual, Jaques Kallis turned to me and said, “This game has changed so much”, and he’s right.

When I played the 45-over game our initial target was simply to reach 180 runs. The first step to achieve this was to get to 10 overs with 30 runs on the board without conceding a wicket. A score in the region of 220 was almost always a winning total. On Sunday the Proteas reached 240 in just 20 overs!

I chatted to Graeme Smith after the game and he admitted that chasing 10 runs an over is not as intimidating as it used to be. This is a far cry from my days of limited-overs cricket, where getting the run rate to over a run a ball was commendable.

Sitting with the players on Sunday, I had a good view of the 12th man running up and down from the changeroom with gloves and bats in hand. Smith’s bats were on the ground in front of me. The Protea captain is sponsored by bat-makers Gunn and Moore, as I was. I preferred big heavy bats, but looking at Smith’s weighty willows, mine seemed like matchsticks by comparison.

For a sponsored player, the bat-maker places the initial and the number of that bat just below the grip on the handle. I had a look at the bat Graeme broke on Sunday and it read GS 66 — I remember my bat at the end of my career reading NJ 34!

Graeme explained later that his bat manufacturer now has a machine that churns out these impressive bats. They are substantial, but the wood is soft and he’s able to play with them straight away. In the past these bats were handmade and hard-pressed — it would take some time to knock in the bat and have it ready. The advantage of the handmade bat, however, was that it lasted a lot longer.

It’s inevitable that like golf, equipment is changing the face of the game of cricket and it’s a good thing. Spare a though for the bowlers though — I am sure Peter Rawson is relieved to have played when he did.

So while we reflect on just how much the limited-overs game has changed, it’s encouraging to contemplate its very exciting future. Change is essential and cricket’s rapidly growing fan base shows that they certainly approve of the way it’s going.

• Neil Johnson is a former Natal, WP and Zimbabwe all-rounder who lives and coaches in Pietermaritzburg.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.