- The former South African left-arm speedster talks about his impressions of Marco Jansen’s introduction to Test match cricket and what has most impressed him about the young gun.
- The ex-Protea, who debuted for South Africa against India in the Test arena, offers his views on the current series and the state of SA cricket, with off-field issues “a distraction”.
- He also shares what the late Hansie Cronje told him shortly before his passing and how the Bad Sport documentary on Netflix brought the memories and tears flowing 20 years later.
Sport24 asked: Your recollections of the 1992/93 series against India?
Brett Schultz: At that stage, it was the purist time and everything was about the badge and the honour of playing for your country. My biggest memory is that I took the first wicket on South African soil post-isolation. It was a historic moment to have Tests back in South Africa and there was an unbelievable spirit in the country. I was a non-travelling reserve for the 1992 World Cup, we were all besotted with the game and that extended into the four-Test series which we won 1-0. I bowled to a young Sachin Tendulkar in that series and years later in his book, I was mentioned as one of the quickest bowlers he ever faced which was quite a nice endorsement. With Kapil Dev also in their side the Indians were definitely no pushovers but they didn’t have the mindset the current team has. In terms of South Africa, the side of the early ‘90s was well-balanced and all l can say is that we are definitely not a number six Test nation now. We have too much talent and shouldn’t be ranked where we are. When our bowling attack is firing, and Anrich Nortje is back, we will have real depth.
Sport24 asked: Your impressions of the current series versus India?
Brett Schultz: Heading into the three-Test series, South Africa didn’t lack form but rather game time. In the Centurion Test you could see that the batsmen were very rusty and didn’t really hit their straps. That said, they have been bowler-friendly wickets and I would love to still be playing myself... I’ve been impressed with fast bowler Marco Jansen. At first, he looked like a deer in the headlights but he came through strongly in the second innings. He went up a couple of notches in my book after that aggression I saw in the second Test. As a fast bowler, you mustn’t be a nice oke on the field. He might be a left-arm quick like I was but he’s a string pole. If you can’t swing it back as a left-armer, batsmen learn to play you but Jansen can. However, I don’t know why he’s bowling so much around the wicket. It’s working for him at present because he’s bringing it in and straightening it. I can understand that but as a leftie you lose a lot by coming around the wicket and it should be your variation. But for now he’s getting wickets coming in at an angle and straightening it which is great.
Sport24 asked: On the flipside, how much of a concern is the batting?
Brett Schultz: To be a winning side, I’m of the view that you have got to have two or three batsmen averaging over 40. And in the really good sides, two of those three average 45. The Proteas have faced some challenges with key players having left at crucial times and they haven’t been able to find the solutions. Test cricket is like a game of chess and it’s not about smashing it all over the ground. Test match cricket is a very calculated game and I really loved watching Temba Bavuma showing fighting gusto in the second Test. He went back at the Indians and exerted his dominance. What made us great as a batting unit was that type of gutsy attitude. In recent times, we have sort of crumbled because we have become positive thinkers and not positive believers. In terms of opening batsman Aiden Markram, he has had a loss of confidence but definitely boasts the ability. It’s true that form is temporary and talent is permanent. However, in terms of the South African batting unit as a whole, the selectors can’t stick with a failing unit in the long-term and time will tell.
Sport24 asked: Do you have regrets from your short-lived Test career?
Brett Schultz: I look back with a lot of regret but with plenty of pride as well. Nine Tests is nothing and it’s always what could have been and not what was. There are no great stats there to back up anything. It was a great start to Test cricket (Schultz took 37 wickets at an average of 20.24) and there was a lot of hype around me. When I was fully fit, I enjoyed bowling quickly. Last year, I had a knee replacement which was an injury from 24 years ago. That damage was the reason I retired in 1997. Tipping the scales at around 100kg, I was the heaviest fast bowler in the world! If you think about ten times your weight on your knee, that’s one ton going through every time you land. Some predicted my injuries but I didn’t think about it too much. I lived for the moment and wasn’t preserving myself for the next game. I was ‘Flat Out Schultz’ but that came at a cost. Injuries ruled my career. I started with back injuries by not being conditioned correctly from a young age. I also tore my bicep tendon off, ruptured shoulders and damaged knee ligaments. My job was to bowl as quickly as I could for as long as I could but should have been better-managed in terms of workload.
Sport24 asked: Do you see Kagiso Rabada becoming a Test centurion?
Brett Schultz: He was recently going through a slump, not believing in himself and obviously not in form. He was trying to hit areas rather than bowl. However, as highlighted as the leading wicket-taker in this series, his true character has come through and he is the real deal. He is a complete athlete and a physical specimen. I foresee him playing 100 Tests or more for South Africa (having reached 50 Test caps at the age of 26) but it’s just whether he wants it enough. During the second Test, Dean Elgar had a word with Rabada because he was not performing to the level and showing the right body language. He needs to lead by example as South Africa’s bowling talisman. Different people need different things to be motivated. Hansie Cronje was an incredible man-manager and would handle a person according to their personality. I remember opening the bowling with Allan Donald against Australia in the third Test of the series. Hansie needed us to be motivated because we were playing for pride being 2-0 down. Hansie came over to Allan and said, “You’re the best in the world. You don’t have to prove anything, so go do what you do.” And when it was my turn to bowl, Hansie took a different tack and said to me, “These Aussies think you are useless and over-rated!” He knew us as personalities, it fired us up in our unique ways and we both claimed wickets.
Sport24 asked: Did off-field drama contribute to Quinton de Kock’s Test exit?
Brett Schultz: The cracks were starting to show when he initially refused to take the knee. Sometimes talented players like De Kock act on impulse. He would have weighed up his pride to play for his country versus all the noise that’s going on in the background. De Kock would have asked himself, “Do I really need it?” You can’t always say he’s chasing the big bucks in the shorter formats and doing it for himself. The pride to play for the badge is dissolved when the focus is not completely on the game, the players and how you are going to win from the top down. Players today have lots to deal with. The players need to concentrate on the game but if they’ve got that little bee buzzing at the back of their head, coupled with their form not being so great then it’s a difficult space. When the DNA is wrong it’s wrong, and a good gauge of the team environment is based on performance.
Sport24 asked: Your reply to those who question Mark Boucher’s credentials?
Brett Schultz: To be fair, Boucher hasn’t really had the results but he was the right man for the job at the time. How do you get qualifications to become national coach when you’ve got the best players in the world? Coaches should maybe rather go for psychology degrees than coaching certificates because it’s more about man-management than skills development. When he was appointed, Boucher was the most qualified because he had been there and knew the game backwards. You can have all the coaching qualifications in the world but if you don’t know game scenarios you are in for a hiding to nothing. I don’t know what’s going to happen now with Boucher because you live and die by your results... There is too much off-field stuff and it’s affecting the players. South African cricket needs a leader right at the top whose interest is in the game and who knows that success between the boundary ropes will make a nation stronger. As a plus point, I’ve heard that Graeme Smith’s presence as the director of cricket has had a positive effect on the national set-up and that there seems to be more solidification and structure in place. But the off-field issues remain a distraction.
Sport24 asked: Have you watched the Bad Sport Cronje episode on Netflix?
Brett Schultz: During my career, I was known as ‘The Bear’ for my ultra-competitive on-field behaviour. However, I cried like a baby when I watched that Netflix documentary. It brought back a helluva lot of memories. I always say that bad people do bad things properly and good people mess it up. For me, Hansie was in the latter category. Greed got him but he was the fall guy for world cricket… I saw him a couple of days before the fateful accident in 2002. His words to me were, “Brett, I’m eventually starting to see the sun again.” It meant that he acknowledged what he had done wrong – it had eaten him up as a human being – and he had repented. In terms of his legacy, what I would hope others take from it is that people make mistakes and it’s what you do after you make the mistakes that matters most. As someone who knew him personally rather than simply idolising him, I really saw him trying to get his life back on track after the match-fixing scandal. He was getting back to normal life and starting to face people and then the tragic plane crash occurred.