SA cricket can learn from

2009-11-06 00:00

SOUTH African cricket needs to avoid slipping on the banana skins that are causing mayhem and even madness in the Antipodes.

Suddenly Australian cricket has more headaches than a rugby team after a cup win (by the way, an anti-hangover shampoo has just been released Down Under and apparently it’s selling like hotcakes). Ricky Ponting and company have been on the road longer than The Rolling Stones and it’s just as well that their next opponents are the woebegone West Indies.

Australia’s problems are the direct result of an absurdly heavy winter commitment. Never again ought a cricket team be subjected to the sort of programme presented to these Australians this winter. A rash of injuries has been the inevitable result of a heavy load. Fast bowlers are flying back and forth between Sydney and Delhi. Every day seems to bring news of another breakdown. Newspapers have filled back pages with pictures of the distressed. And it’s hardly surprising.

Consider the team’s activities in the last few months. After completing a long home season, Australia came to Africa, played a Test series and afterwards a one-day campaign that seemed to last as long as a Yoko Ono song. Next the squad trooped off to England to take part in the T20 world Cup. That was followed by a gruelling Ashes series, and seven more baffling ODIs, whereupon all and sundry returned to these parts and promptly won the Champions Trophy. Nor was that all. New South Welshmen promptly moved to India to compete in the inaugural Champions League. Next the side was summoned to the same country to play another seven ODIs against their hosts.

Dizzy? Confused? Exhausted?

Bear in mind that this is the off-season, a period set aside for rest and recuperation. In a few days the party finally returns to antipodean soil whereupon it can begin preparations for its domestic season. Meanwhile speedsters are going down like sprayed flies. So far Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken, Peter Siddle, James Hopes and Moises Henriques have come a cropper.

Admittedly torn hamstrings and strained sides are occupational hazards in the pace bowling caper. But injuries are more likely when the programme is too tightly packed to permit proper rest, medical care and a healthy lifestyle. Even the glovemen have been incapacitated. At various times Brad Haddin, Tim Payne and Graham Manou have been left nursing bruised or broken fingers.

Of course these blokes are well paid, but that’s hardly the point. They are also elite sportsmen under pressure to maintain a high standard on and off the park. Oh yes, and they are humans as well. Mental and physical burnout are becoming major issues in their lives. Indeed, it says much about the touring management that no untoward incidents have been reported. Andrew Symonds’s absence has helped — his life appears to be going from bad to worse.

Weary players can easily get themselves into trouble. Ponting did spend a week or so at home after the Ashes, a concession confirming that even Cricket Australia realised that too much had been asked of him. Media managers have come and gone at roughly the same rate as pacemen.

Clearly Cricket South Africa needs to consider the welfare of its players and travelling officials as it arranges its fixtures over the next few years. Admittedly the players themselves are far from blameless. Recently grizzles were undermined by the rush to sign lucrative IPL contracts. Before that, supposedly dog-tired players often spent their off seasons in England.

Now their complaints have merit. Worried about the intrusion of ICL and similar independent enterprises, cricket was for a period hell-bent on keeping its players occupied. Now that ICL has collapsed, the boards need to talk to the players and to build a demanding but acceptable programme. South Africa has many precious cricket assets under its wing.

Australia’s other weak point has been their hurry to find a top-class leg-spinner. It is a fool’s errand. As soon as a young wrist-spinner turns a couple past the bat he is grabbed and pushed along. Shane Warne messed everything up by making the grade at 22. But he was a genius blessed with exceptionally strong shoulders, fingers, wrist and brain. It is not possible to follow in his footsteps, or to copy his action (a point lost on bowling coaches, who do more harm than good). Young spinners need to be given time to develop their skills. Supportive captains and patience are more important than blueprints and gurus.

Far from trying to fast-track emerging tweakers, Australia ought to be studying the slowly evolving careers of Amit Mishra of India and Sri Lanka’s brilliant Ajantha Mendis. South Africa, too, need to forget about overnight spinning sensations. The groundwork needs to be done. In so many ways cricket hereabouts can copy the Aussies. But it is just as important to learn from mistakes.

• Peter Roebuck is an international cricket correspondent who is based in the KZN midlands.

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.