T20 team: a work in progress

2012-12-29 00:00

RAY WHITE reflects on the T20 series against New Zealand and the newcomers who were given their first chance in SA colours.

IT is ironic that after enduring a couple of years of maladministration, South African cricket finds itself in as good a shape on the playing field as it has ever been, which is the only criterion of health that interests most of the people who play and support the game.

The ageing cynics among us will aver that it has always been thus and that the best governance of sport is the least possible.

I am not sure I entirely agree with this kind of minimalist approach to government that would find favour with the Tea Party movement of the Republican Party in middle America, but there is no denying that cricket has not yet suffered in the aftermath of the Majola affair. This is probably due to the fact that those political interests who are itching to get control of the game have been forced to stay their hands while the tedious implementation of Judge Nicholson’s report has slowly worked its way through the system. Meanwhile, the embers still burn for Majola’s effort to screw as much money as he can out of the game for which he has always professed such unconditional affection.

There may be some naïve souls who believe that once the good judge’s recommendations have been set in concrete all will be well within Cricket South Africa, but the unworthy machinations that allowed the resurfacing of its erstwhile president, Norman Arendse, gives the lie to such hopes.

The key appointment to watch for those of an optimistic nature is that of CSA’s chief executive. If Jacques Faul retains his position as CEO on a full-time basis, some of us will sleep knowing that the game is by and large in safe hands. Should he be replaced by any of those circling headquarters, such as Haroon Lorgat or Hussein Manack, then it will be time to become very concerned, even knowing as we do that cricket in this country has prospered under both indifferent and poor administrations.

On the subject of mundane matters, it is only the T20 team that have yet to complete, to one’s satisfaction, the ever-changing jigsaw of the various national cricket teams. Sadly, the Kiwis, notwithstanding their one win in the series just completed, did not provide worthwhile opposition to the work in progress that is Faf Du Plessis’s T20 team. This is not to say that this team lacks promise, but rather that it remains an unproven unit.

In fact, it looks as though the selectors are on the right track. If the current squad of players, with the addition of AB de Villiers, can be kept together for a couple of years, it could become a very competitive T20 team. Strangely, it is not a team full of youngsters. Justin Ontong, Henry David and Robin Peterson are all on the wrong side of 30 and several others are in their late twenties, but this should not disqualify any of them from participation in the next ICC cup tournament. David is the same age as Graeme Smith, which merely illustrates just how long the big man has been a force in South African cricket.

Those who are genuine youngsters are all players who, under the right tutelage, should develop into formidable cricketers in all forms of the game. I like the look of David Miller and he should be joined in the middle of the order by Colin Ingram when the Warrior’s left-hander has recovered from injury.

Quentin de Kock is a 19-year-old who looks and bats rather like a precocious 15-year-old schoolboy. He clearly has a lot to learn about batting and keeping wicket, but there can be no denying his talent. It is now up to him to develop his promise, but he could not be in a better environment to do so. I have no doubt that Gary Kirsten has De Kock in mind to take over the gloves in the Test team when the time is right.

Aaron Phangiso has been one of the fairytales of modern South African cricket. He was born in 1984 in Garankua at a time when life in the townships was characterised by great violence. His parents could never have dreamed that he would one day play cricket for a country that was, at the time of Phangiso’s birth, still in the deathless grip of the apartheid regime. He was picked up by the mini-cricket programme and ultimately found his way to the Titans, who were responsible for his early development.

He probably needs to spend time with someone like Alan Kourie, himself a slow left-armer who knew the value of possessing a stock ball that he could rely on in all circumstances. Like other bowlers who have played too much T20 cricket, Phangiso attempts too many variations, but he has made good progress over the past few years and is a worthy member of the T20 squad. He could easily find himself elevated to the ODI team with the right guidance.

One should also remember that Marchant de Lange, who has been out of cricket this season with a nasty back injury, will be back in contention next season. He will add some serious pace to the T20 squad and could provide the team with the kind of death bowler that can both win and save matches.

For all this T20 stuff, it remains not much more than a lucrative frivolity. The main event resumes normal service next week against a weakened team that was already uncompetitive. Gary Kirsten can reflect on a good year for his current charges and sleep well in the knowledge that no immediate danger threatens his team and that he escaped from his previous employers at the top of the market.

I wish all readers a happy New Year.

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