Monday, August 9, 2021

To the couch for Bouch

There is an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, we will tolerate you until we can replace you. In other words, you ability must exceed your baggage. To be clear, Mark Boucher has been nothing short of an abject failure with the Proteas. Under his leadership, the boys have shown absolutely no fight during times of trouble. The batting line-up has shown the resistance of a wet tissue paper in a storm, and the bowling attack has been, to put it midldly, insipid. There is a large section of the population which will claim that a poor bowling or batting effort does not solely lie at the hands of the coach. After all, these are grown men, and they have their own mentors in their discipline, as well as team-appointed batting and fielding coaches. I don't even disagree with this viewpoint, but Graeme Smith, the erswhile Kingmaker, or coachmaker at the Fawlty Towers known as Cricket South Africa, stated 19 months ago when he hired Boucher as the coach of the national team that he had brought Boucher in to bring an international steel to the national team. In other words, as per the boss himself, having a former international veteran was supposed to cure all ills. So while I personally believe that it is actually stupid to expect a coach to cure all ills, if you set out your own key point indicator, and fail to meet them, well, that's on you. In the ten Tests which South Africa have played since Boucher was made coach, they've won five and lost five. The literal definition of mediocrity. Being bad at Test cricket is one thing. At any time in the history of the game, there generally seems to only be two or three good Test sides with every other side floundering between mediocrity and being actual human garbage. But the limited over stuff have generally acted as good levelling ground, where inferior teams are able to close the gap with planning, homogenized conditions and superior coaching. Well, even there, in the 12 matches Boucher has coached, South Africa have won six out of 12. Which, as we mentioned earlier, is bang average. And finally, in T20, a format where any team can beat any team, South Africa have lost 14 of the 24 T20 internationals they've played under Bouch. This is all to say that there are very legitimate on-the-field reasons to let go of Mark Boucher as the South African cricket coach. Omce these reasons are combined with the off-field dramas which have surrounded his stint, it becomes almost impossible to justify hanging on to him, outside of some pathologically unhealhy desire to stay in 2010 when the Proteas were seen as a quality international side. While there was some dissapointment at the way Enoch Nkwe, fresh from winning a domestic treble, was jettisoned as team director of the national team following the top-down shake-up in December 2019, real eyebrows were raised when Boucher was named coach of the national team on a four-year contract by Graeme Smith. In the modern history of Cricket South Africa, no coach has ever been given a four year contract. Indeed, CSA prefer to having roling two-year deals so as to allow themselves some lattitude when it comes to releasing coaches from their contracts without having to fork an arm and a leg. Despite that, the very first major move Smith made as the Director pf Cricket was to give his good mate a four-year deal. If this happened at governmental level, a huge section of society would have been up in arms. The rules being flouted for a friend of the boss? There's a term for that. Most recently, and arguably more alarming, Boucher has been accused by Paul Adams of having been one of a large number of teammates who called him a brown s#!t. These are very serious accusations, but it's pretty safe to say that in a country where 90% of the population are people of colour, and with a history as fractured and South Africa's, it is almost indefensible to have a sitting head coach be someone with a charge of racial discrimination that serious. Especially when the team's record has floated between mediocre and actually, to bowrrow a term he may have used, s#it.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Watch - South Africa chase down 438

Fifteen years ago, South Africa were set a then world-record 435 runs by Australia. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Can Captain Quinny cope


There has only been one man in major international cricket history to lead a side in all formats while keeping wicket for them for any serious length of time: Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But while Dhoni had a heavy load, one which he carried like a prized weightlifter, Quinton de Kock may have an even heavier cross to bear. de Kock is the best player on South Africa's national team. It honestly doesn't matter which format we are talking about, he reigns supreme in all formats. This gift is undoubtedly at least part of the reason he was selected as the captain of the national team in all three formats. But will it turn out to be a curse?

To ask him to carry the load with the bat, as the lynchpin of a fragile batting line-up. Then in the field as both wicket-keeper and captain. Finally in the media, as the face of the team may be a bridge too far for a man whose last trip as the captain of a national team saw him clash with his under-19 coach, Ray Jennings, and eventually lose his job.

The move to have your best player be your captain is in some ways a very recent one. South Africa for example, had never done it. Australia was the only country that seemed to consistently find success in leaving all leadership queries at the feet of their best player. Donald BradmanAllan BorderSteve WaughRicky PontingMichael Clarke, and most recently, Steve Smith represent the best players in the teams they presided over. By contrast, considering their careers coincided with Jacques Kallis', Hansie Cronje, Shaun Pollock, and Graeme Smith were never in danger of being seen as the best players in the South African national team. A quick look at the modern game reveals an overwhelming majority of captains worldwide doubling up as the most valuable players in the team. This switch has likely been a result of two separate but equally crucial developments in the game: 

1 - The more holistic view nations have regarding on-field decisions, with all teams now having selectors, coaches, and even backroom staff all being able to chip in with their input to team selections, as well as team tactics. Gone are the days of Clive Lloyd finding the best bowlers in the Caribbean Isles on his own. Cricket boards have someone to do that now.
2 - The idea that carrying a captain who may not be one of the best XI players in your country is an inefficient team selection. 

Ironically, Australia seems to have zigged when the rest of the world zagged. This is ironic because Australia was the one who zagged when the cricket world zigged. There is an argument to be made that Tim Paine isn't even the best wicket-keeper in Australia, let alone their best player. But T-Paine only plays one format, one where leadership aside, his contributions to overall success is at best replacement-value. South Africa is going to need more than just replacement-value from de Kock. They are going to need star-level performance. It remains to be seen whether the boy from King Edward's shoulders will be strong enough to carry load Dhoni's did. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Proteas Post-Lockdown Preview

Cricket is finally back in South Africa! It will be strange to watch our home summer with no crowds, especially during the New Year’s test, but it’s better than nothing (or in my case, watching IPL commentators talk about some car for the hundredth time). The summer begins with England’s limited overs tour. We lost the T20I series and drew the ODI series when England toured earlier this year. The matches, however, were great to watch, with Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock’s pleasing opening partnerships, and Lungi Ngidi displaying his death bowling skills.

Our fast bowlers have been unlucky with injuries in the recent past, but we should see all three of Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada start together at some point this summer, hopefully before the Test series against Sri Lanka. Rabada and Nortje have been excellent with Delhi Capitals in the IPL, while Ngidi has struggled at CSK but remains an amazing One-Day prospect with his death bowling abilities. Beuran Hendricks has looked good in some innings and brings much-needed variety to the pace battery. Junior Dala might not get as many chances as he’d like, but it’s a long summer and he has shown some potential in is international career so far. Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius will be competing for one spot, but some squad rotation should see both get a chance in this series. Glenton Stuurman has received his first call-up but will have to wait since Lutho Sipamla is also part of this large squad.

It is still strange to see de Kock leading the side, but he might just be the right person to lead the team as rebuild. His opening partnership with Bavuma has looked good so far, with both batsmen scoring briskly and running well between the wickets. Janneman Malan is off to a good start in his ODI career. He is likely to open with de Kock, with Bavuma fitting in at 3. Heinrich Klaasen was magnificent against Australia and will find a place in the lower middle order. Jon-Jon Smuts was frustrating all summer but finally got going towards the end, pulling off a good win over Australia. Kyle Verreynne should complete what looks like our most solid middle order in years. It was disappointing to see David Miller barely play in the IPL, but he will be raring to go. We obviously rate him. Rassie van der Dussen has been outstanding so far, averaging a casual 70 in ODIs. Pite van Biljon has also retained his place in the squad. Reeza Hendricks is back (yay) but might not make it to the XI right away, considering he is statistically the worst batsman in the side.

Imran Tahir’s ODI retirement and notable absence from the T20 squad means that the frontline spinner’s position is still up for grabs. All of Tabraiz Shamsi, Keshav Maharaj, Bjorn Foruin and George Linde have been named in both squads. Shamsi is probably the front-runner but is underwhelming on the field and with the bat. George Linde contributes more with the bat and was superb for the Cobras this week. He has played one test so far and is a good shout across all formats. He will be competing with Bjorn Fortuin, another left arm orthodox all-rounder and the youngest of the lot. Linde is better with the bat, Fortuin is more economical. Finally, Keshav Maharaj has been in and out of the limited overs squads but looks unlikely to take Fortuin’s place in the XI. Jon-Jon Smuts can bowl a full quota of overs but is the 4th left arm orthodox option in the squad!

On the other hand, while it's only Victor Mpitsang's first series since taking over as convener as selectors, leaving out Sisanda Magala and Aiden Markram and retaining Dala and Smuts is bizarre.

England have played more cricket recently, and other than the Proteas involved in the IPL, our only preparation so far has been the first round of the franchise series and that 3TC atrocity earlier this year. There’s a big mess at CSA to go with that, but we try to remain optimistic.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Watch: Young Allan Donald bowls against Australia(1986/87)

From the vault of Robelinda, we found one of the rarest videos known to cricket kind. A young Allan Donald facing the Rebel Australian side in an unofficial Test. Enjoy. 


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Watch: South Africa edge England in a last ball thriller.

With the South Africa vs England series starting later this month, we thought it appropriate to take a walk down memory lane through some of the closest and most entertaining T20s between the two sides. In this 2017 clash at Taunton, AB de Villiers was the star as South Africa edged England in a thriller which came down to the final ball.


To the couch for Bouch

There is an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, we will tolerate you until we can replace ...