Saturday, November 3, 2018

Gulam Bodi down, out and now convicted


In a quiet court in Pretoria on a cloudy Friday afternoon in Pretoria, Gulam Bodi became the first South African athlete in history to receive a criminal conviction for match-fixing. He has pled guilty to all eight charges brought against him, and to quote him, "The accused pleads to the mercy of the courts. He fully understands the seriousness of his offences and begs the state for forgiveness", was the statement read out in court. Sentencing has not yet been brought down.


Bodi, along with Ethy Mbhalati , Thami Tsolekile, Jean Symes, Alviro Petersen, Lonwabo Tsotosbe, and Pume Matshikwe were all suspended from South African cricket operations, following allegations of match fixing during the 2015 RAM Slam T20, with Bodi accused of having been the link between the match-fixers and pros.

Big questions ahead the Australia ODI series




Due to the ever expanding international fixture list, it is becoming more and more difficult to squeeze full tours in, so international teams have taken to completing tours in pieces. Not the worst idea, but it does mean we are left with things like seemingly arbitrary one-week tours, over three games, which have no discernible benefit. But, this is the lead up to a World Cup year after all, and with that comes a few questions that need to be answered before the big thing actually happens.

Is Aiden Markram our answer at #4? 

The retirement of AB de Vlliers has created a power vacuum of sorts in the national team. Now shorn of the value of one of the five greatest ODI players of all time as well as unarguably the most destructive, possibly of all time, but most definitely in his era, the team has spluttered along a bit at the death. It must be said,that AB was present for when India completely ran us over at home, 5-1, in the ODIs earlier this year, with only our Pink ODI kit's patented invulnerability saving us from a complete whitewash.
Aiden Markram has been earmarked as a future potential superstar from a young age, and he certainly had the mother of all coming out parties last summer, scoring hundreds for fun in the Tests, including a pair of centuries in the series vs Australia against arguably the best Test bowling attack in the world at the moment (it would be an incorrect argument, but still worth debating). His incredible introduction to Test cricket has unfortunately not been matched in ODI. As it currently stands, young Markram averages 24, and has shown very little skill or industry against spin in ODI,  given the fact that India are amongst the favourites for the World Cup, and they always go in with at least a two -headed spin monster,it would be preferable if Aiden showed a bit of skill against Australia's spinners, who, with respect, will be a bit of a step down. Batting at #4 does include a significant time spent in the middle overs, which are historically very spin-dominant. With the modern game having turned 300 into a par total, it is definitely a cricket truism that one can't just survive in the middle overs, one has to thrive. For this series, though, I'd be happy with Markram just surviving. We also, know nothing about his death hitting, but that's the end of cricket games. No point in wondering if the boy can swim at the deep end if he keeps drowning halfway into the journey. Reeza Hendricks made a century on debut, And AB has gone on record as saying that he'd like to see him be given a run. That puts a lot of pressure on Markram to succeed. Lets hope it makes a diamond in two weeks.

Who will be our second all-rounder?
Andile Phehlukwayo is definitely the incumbent for one of the all rounder spots. Don't be angry about it, he just is. At an average of 27 with the bat, and 33 with the ball, his numbers are just fine for the number 8 all-rounder who is entrusted with hitting a few lusty blows and also bowling some over in the middle and at the death.
The real question, one which one could argue is as much a question of team composition as it is player selection, is one regarding who should be the second all-rounder. Conventional wisdom suggests that it will be either one of Dwaine Pretorius or Chris Morris, but in surprisingly selecting Farhaan Behardien, the selectors have brought another name into the hat. Farhaan definitely isn't the bowler Pretorius or Morris are, but he is a better batsman, or at least has shown more wares internationally, than the two of them. Could he be used as a batting all-rounder at #7, with him and JP trying to bowl 10-15 overs a game? It would certainly be risky from management, especially given the fact that calling Behardien a bowler is basically as far as imagination is willing to stretch, and maybe even too far.. It must be said that it isn't as if Morris and Pretorius have made compelling cases for their inclusions. They certainly haven't made themselves undroppable. They both average in the teens with the bat, and Morris is a rather expansive bowler, especially for someone who doesn't take that many wickets. With Wiaan Mulder back in January, there is a strong possibility that only one of these men will be on the plane to England and Wales.




Saturday, October 27, 2018

Mzansi Super League profiles: Tshwane Spartans




Team: Tshwane Spartans
Protea Marquee: AB de VIlliers
International Marquee: Eoin Morgan
Coach: Mark Boucher
Cool Factor: A
SquadAB de Villiers, Eoin Morgan*, Lungi Ngidi, Robbie Frylinck, Jeewan Mendis*, Theunis de Bruyn, Rory Kleinveldt, Sean Williams*, Gihahn Cloete, Lutho Sipamla, Tony de Zorzi, Dean Elgar, Andrew Birch, Sikander Raza, Shaun von Berg, Eldred Hawken.

The good people of Centurion and Pretoria will probably be the most disappointed in the entire country to have the new-look Mzansi Super League. In the good old days of the Ram Slam T20, they had as firm a vice grip on the T20 tournament as any team in the history of T20 tournaments. They had won three in a row heading into this uncertain season, an uncertainty to the tune of Cricket South Africa technically not actually having an official T20 competition four weeks ago. As one would expect in a tournament where the players were selected via a draft, they have lost a lot of the talent which led them to their hat-trick of wins. For one, they still have Mark Boucher, the legendary former Protea wicketkeeper. For two, they have definitely the showpiece of the tournament, and arguably the best player in the event, AB de Villiers. Throw in the fact that Lungi Ngidi is also arguably the best fast-bowler of the tournament and I believe we have the likely champions of this event. The Spartans have somehow managed to retain seven members of the essentially invincible Titans team, which  should help ensure good continuity.

Player to watch out for: AB de Villiers.
Player not named AB de Villiers to watch out for:  Theunis de Bruyn

Prediction: Champions.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Mzanzi Super League profiles: Paarl Rocks


Paarl Rocks
Home ground: Boland Park
Home City: Paarl
Cool factor: B-
Established: Like one day ago

Squad: Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dane Paterson, Aiden Markram, Mangaliso Mosehle, Bjorn Fortuin, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Grant Thomson, Paul Stirling, Tshepo Moreki, Henry Davids, Cameron Delport, Eathan Bosch, Patrick Kruger, Kerwin Mungroo
First things first: It should really be noted that Paarl Rocks is quite possibly the worst name in the history of cricket franchises. Yes, even worse than Rising Pune Super Giants, which was literally only so named as a marketing ploy for its owners, RP-Sanjiv Goenka group, aka RPSG. But no, the team is not named Paarl Rocks as an ode to the idea that Paarl is a nice place to be. Paarl sleeps, yes. Paarl makes wine, yes. But Paarl most definitely does not rock. It is in fact so named after the Paarl Rock,  a rock- climbing mecca of some sort for rock climbers. Apparently on a clear day, one can see Table Mountain from Paarl Rock. Cool.

Yep. That's Paarl Rock. Not exactly the greatest thing I've ever seen, but that's Paarl.

Onto the squad itself, well a squad which includes Faf du Plessis, Cameron Delport, Dwyane Bravo and Aiden Markram, certainly looks like it will be able to contend strongly with the bat. Questions will be raised about their abilities with the ball, with Dane Paterson being the only express pace bowler. In this case, express pace is a rather kind term. Dwayne Bravo is of course one of the great T20 franchise players of all time, but, I’m not sure this will be enough, especially up north where the pitches are faster and firmer. More especially when their spinner is Tabraiz Shamsi, and he is in, to put it mildly, horrid form.  On the bright side, they do have two all-rounders in Cameron Delport and Dwayne Bravo who are likely to fill the stat sheet with both bat and ball. Given that this is the first edition of this  tournament, all teams should expect to do well, but given a not particularly intimidating stadium (Boland Park seats 10 000), a light pace attack, and the absence of a true master blaster, it would not surprise us to see them near the bottom of the standings.

Captain: Faf du Plessis.
International Marquee: Dwayne Bravo
Foreign player: Paul Stirling
Kolpak player: Cameron Delport
Rookie: Eathan Bosch.
Age: 20 years. T20 record: 5 games.  60 runs. Strike rate 157.89. Highest score: 50. 6 wickets. Economy rate 8.75.
Likely XI
Markram
Davids
Du Plessis*
Van Jaarsveld
Mosehle(W/K)
Bravo
Delport
Moreki
Paterson
Shamsi

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Imran Tahir: So right even when it's wrung'un




In the history of South African cricket, no spinner has taken more One Day International wickets than Imran Tahir. It isn't particularly close to be honest. He has 149 wickets, no other spinner has 100. He is also currently the leading T20 international wicket-taker in South African history. In other words, in international cricket, he's our greatest ever white ball spinner. He is also, with the ball at least, the most likely reason we will leave England with a world cup, or at the very least our pride intact. See for a bowler to lead a team to a world cup, they need to commit the perfect crime. If 15 years of watching CSI has taught me nothing else, its that to commit the perfect crime, one needs three things. Motive, means and opportunity.

Motive. That's the want to. The desire to achieve something improbable. Tahir doesn't just just have the motive to win a world cup. He has the motive to take tail-end wickets against Zimbabwe in a meaningless ODI. The man plays with a passion very rarely before seen. He loves the game and you can bet your last dollar that he will want to drop his mark as an international cricketer, on the biggest stage in ODI cricket. Certainly, for cricketers who never distinguished themselves as Test cricketers (Tahir had an okay, but not great career), a cricket World Cup presents the most realistic shot at immortality. It is a consequence of the fact that the World Cup is the Sun around which  the white ball cricket world revolves that games against Zimbabwe, where you take a brilliant fiver, or even against Australia, where you go head to head with a rampant David Warner and just about get over the line, simply have no consequence. It would be harsh to call them meaningless, but they aren't events which a person harkens back to, in the way every single AB de Villiers tribute seemed to mention thast he once batted 200 balls without a fifty. The World Cup is where immortals are made, for ODI cricket, and you can bet that Imran Tahir wants that shot at immortality.

Means. Its no good to just want to be an immortal. You have to have the ability.It's like a crime. No matter how much you may want to be a mastermind criminal, it helps nothing without the skill to achieve. Boy oh boy, does that Imran Tahir chap have skill. There is absolutely no difference between his googly and his stock ball. They come out the exact way, and then you just gotta play a game of dice with your wicket as you play for turn and hope you guessed correctly the side it will turn. As with everything in international cricket, it does get better the longer you are facing him, but initially anyway, it really is like facing a genius toying with you. The guy goes at less than five in an era where England have reset the record total twice, and you'd certainly back them to reset it again in the next twelve months. The best part is, you know that Imran will show up in the world cup. After all, the man averages 16.11 in ICC tournaments. Even if you minimise that to exclude teams not in the next world cup (the so-called minnows), that average actually drops to a scarcely believable 15. He does average an above-his-average 29 in England, but that's off a small sample size, and I can assure that if South Africa are in the business end of that tournament.. well, Tahir will be worth his weight in gold.

Opportunity. Well, this is his last world cup. This is the last chapter for the great man, much like it is for so many of our cricketers who are essentially modern day legends. He better use it

Monday, October 8, 2018

Lord of the Swing: The return of the King




The best ability, they say is availability. This intuitively feels true. Largely because it clearly is true. What good does being good, or even historically great do, when you aren't even on the park? Or, to steal another adage, what god is a Ferrari when it's in the garage? In Dale Steyn, arguably the greatest matchwinner in South African cricketing history, the national team has had a Ferrari Enzo, the flagship in the garage. But that is all gone now. Having once gone 48 straight Tests without concern, the former iron man began to show some weakness. A hamstring injury  in the first morning of the  deciding test vs Australia not only all but sealed South Africa's fate at Newlands, but it also started a string of injuries and niggles which have seen a man who seemed destined to cross the 500 Test scalp threshold, stuck. Well, as stuck as any man on 421 Test wickets at nearly five wickets a game and the second greatest strike rate in cricket history can be. To Cricket South Africa's relief no doubt, the man who has the best Strike rate in Test cricket history just happens to be Steyn's heir apparent, and has held the fort as well as anyone could realistically expect. If anything, he's basically reinforced the fort and added a moat and then added a crocodile to that moat and then fed the crocodiles Captain America's super soldier serum. Kagiso Rabada is really good is what I am trying to say. That, though is a story for another day. This day is about one Dale Steyn. And ladies and gentlemen, he is back. He is available. Better than that, after a slightly mediocre return to the Test set-up, he seems to be back to something approaching his best. The veins are pumping. The eyes seem to change colours and the speed gun is reading some terrifying numbers. In one over vs Zimbabwe on Sunday, he averaged 148kph. That is 92 miles per hour in imperial talk. That's not just fast, that;s historically fast .He seems to have maintained his ability to swing it away from the right hander, while he developed the ability to seem it both way against the left-hander later in his career, and like most learned skills, it seems to have survived any sign of physical decline.

So if we are to accept that the Steyn Gun is back, and we are to believe that he is back to his best abilities; the real question is whether CSA are willing to go all in on the pace trio of Lungi Ngidi, Dale Steyn, and Kagiso Rabada? Could a bowling attack win what is by consensus expected to be a batting world cup?

We can bowl, but can we bat?



They made heavy weather of it, but the Proteas as expected defeated Zimbabwe 3-0 in the ODI series. The bowling was imperious. Whoever was asked to bowl bowled well. Dale Steyn was ramping it up at 150 kph. Kagiso Rabada was Rabada. Lungi Ngidi was who we are beginning to acknowledge he is. Imran Tahir took a hat-trick and Tabraiz Shamsi showed he is a competent back up to the great man. Andile Phehlukwayo continued to take wickets and go at around six to the over. Which is generally what you ask of your fifth bowler. That is the bowling. The batting wasn't a disaster, but it was not encouraging. It took until the third ODI for a top six batsman to get to fifty. There were mitigating circumstances. The first ODI, the chase was less than 150, and in the second, the pitch was not, shall we say, ideal. But there are always mitigating circumstances. This was a show out series. A chance to strengthen your claim for a world cup spot, with the event proper less than a year away.

No one showed up with the bat. Aiden Markram has had a start in basically every ODI he's played in but no fifties. Heinrich Klaasen showed in the first and the third ODI that he is indeed the muscle of the team. A bruiser in the middle order. But his failure in the second game, combined with his lack of shine in Sri Lanka on turning pitches do leave questions bout his ability when there is a little bit more finesse required unanswered. As a back-up wicket keeper, he will without doubt go to the world cup. But it is getting harder to believe he is the answer to any question which South Africans have been asking. With the retirement of AB de Villiers, there is indeed a spot basically up for grabs in the top six, and it seems everyone has developed butter fingers., unable to catch the chance to become that final cog in the wheel. With that in mind, can anyone explain what the thinking behind letting Faf du Plessis bat in the final ODI was? Admittedly, he is coming back from a lay-off, but it's a six week layoff, Not a six month one. This series should have been about providing opportunities to less experienced players to stake their claim. We finish this series with serious questions about our batting depth. Questions which I fear, in a year's time, we aren't going to like the answers to.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Greatest South African cricketers: AB de Villiers


If you've watched some IPL, you would have heard it before. A wicket falls, and then another. Then the cacophany of sound starts. You can hear it, "AB" "AB", "AB". Cricket is a game which can be a little boring. Even in it's most condensed form. You could argue that there are only a handful of superstars in cricket. Virat Kohli is one. Not only because of the fact that he is the face of cricket in the biggest market in world cricket, but his attitude, the way he carries himself. He stands a man apart there. AB de Villiers never quite carried himself that way, but he had that superstar quality. He walks in and the crowd is nearly in rapture. He hasn't even batted yet, and people are already excited.


It took five Tests for AB to confirm that there was substance to his promise. It must be noted that when AB made his debut on the 17th of December 2004, South African cricket was in a bit of rut. They were less than 18 months removed from a pretty abject failure in the world cup. More immediately they had just lost the away India series 1-0. The cupboard had looked so bare that Andrew Hall was opening. To be fair, he scored a century in India. But that was more a case of serendipity than any real foresight. The cupboard looked bare, and CSA didn't even have a place to put hope. Which was just as well because they probably didn't have that, given the fact that the likes of Zander de Bruyn and Martin van Jaarsveld were getting capped. Honest cricketers, no doubt. But not the guys you look at when you hope for a future in cricket. Fortunately, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn debuted on the same day, with Hashim Amla having made his bow a few months earlier, and the world was changed. But this is about AB de Villiers.


AB de Villiers is the most exciting cricketer South Africa has ever produced. Cricket is a strange game, Test cricket anyway, in that the most marketable stars of the game are not the ones who have the most influence over a game. In football, strikers are disproportionately adored and loved, but that is because they have the biggest influence over a result seeing as they are tasked with performing a role tied to winning the game. In the same vein, In rugby, without an effective pack, most flyhalves are actually a little useless, but because they generally kick over penalties and are tasked with unlocking the backline, they are given a slightly elevated sense of importance. In Test cricket, it's been a little backward. Barring a captain making a poor series of declarations, it is bordering on impossible to win a Test game without taking 20 wickets. So bowlers should by that logic be the superstars of cricket right? Nah. Much like in baseball where a pitcher has a much greater influence on proceedings than any batter, for some reason, cricket has decided that batting is sexy. And my word, there is nothing more sexy than AB in full flow. He hits it long. He hits it in the most unorthodox places, and he is consistent. AB de Villiers managed to marry the visceral thrill of watching Jos Buttler with the consistent genius of Virat Kohli. Very few athletes in world sports marry style and substance. Roger Federer is one. AB de Villiers was another. His retirement leaves a hole in the South African middle order, as we lose our best batsman. Our best finisher. Our most senior batsman. To say he left a hole would be like saying Beethoven left a mark on music. There is almost literally no way we can cover the gap the great man left in less than a year, but we can write a blog post detailing how great he is.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Wiaan Mulder Quandary




Many years ago, when the skies were blue and the world was good, Michael Jordan was in the NBA draft. The Portland Trailblazers had the number one draft pick. The Blazers at the time already had a pretty good shooting guard in Clyde Draxler. A scout called them pre-draft and told them to pick Michael Jordan, to which the Trailblazers replied, "We already have a shooting guard. We need a centre". The scout gave the immortal retort "Pick Jordan and then play him at centre". The basic premise behind this modern allegory is that if the moving parts involved are good enough, you can figure out how to fit them in later. Sort of reverse engineer sporting success, if you will. See what you have, and make it fit. As compared to the old way, which was; see what you need, and get pieces that fit. I think of this story today as I write about Wiaan Mulder. In his limited time with the Proteas, he's been put in to bat #6 or 7. He bats at four for his domestic side, The Highveld Lions. The idea is of course, that he is such a precocious and wonderful talent with his worldly success so assured, that it doesn't particularly matter where we play him. He will succeed. Certainly, at 19, he is as exciting a talent as South Africa has produced since all the way back to a year or two ago when we unleashed Lungi Ngidi into the world. Or going further back all the way to two years before that when Kagiso Rabada announced himself. To find a predecessor for Rabada you have to go all the way back to two years before he was found, to find one Quinton de Kock. We seem to be producing incredible cricketers at a rate of knots is what I am saying. My opinion is that this never-before seen success and depth of talent has led Cricket South Africa, and specifically the selection panel to get more and more brazen with their selections. If you are young and promising, you will at some point get a selection. That is all well and good, but at some point CSA have to be a little bit more discerning in their choices.

Wiaan Mulder is a supreme talent. No doubt. In the last Sunfoil Series, he averaged over 50 with the bat and less than thirty with the ball. If a wily veteran averaged this, they'd definitely warrant selection. If teenager averages this, well. You put them on a must watch list and then fast-track their progress. But, and this is where the discernment comes in. All the hype for and about Mulder has been on the back of his red ball exploits. His List A numbers are pretty mediocre and barring a reasonably brisk hundred, there is no reason to be particularly enthused about his List A career. Now this doesn't mean that he should not be selected in List A. But it does mean that as of now, he isn't the cricketing equivalent to the aforementioned Michael Jordan, where you pick him and figure out where to play him later. With Mulder, management has to figure out two things. 1) What is his best position with the bat? 2) Is he in their plans for the 2019 world cup? 

The answer to number one is fairly obvious. He bats four for the Lions. He averages over 40 batting at four domestically. But wait, I hear you you all, an average of 40 is good. Why can't he just be picked and then adjusted later? Because, my sweet child, while he does average a very healthy 40 for the Lions. I'm talking about his Firs class average. His List A average is 25. That is not a plug and play. That is the very definition of "do not just insert him into the line-up". So, no, CSA. You cannot bat him at seven or eight. He isn't that guy. He barely strikes it at 100 in T20s domestically. He hasn't even hit a six in domestic T20. The kid is a talent, yes. But he is not a finisher. He’s a number four. A budding one, certainly. Unlikely to meet the heights of AB de Villiers, definitely. But that doesn’t make him a finisher by some process of elimination.

Which leads me to point two. This is a slightly more difficult to answer aspect. In an ideal world, CSA would have picked him at the beginning of 2017, and given him two-and-a-half years to develop as a cricketer under the international lights. Not particularly ideal, really given the lack of cricket he’d have. But at least we’d have a broad pool of information to work with regarding the potential Mulder has. But we didn’t, and we don’t. Which leaves us in a quandary. We threw a high-potential cricketer into a situation where we now have to persevere with him batting at a position he isn’t primed to succeed in. The world cup is less than a year away, and if we don’t pick Mulder, we have to start from scratch finding a #7. This doesn’t even sound like a bad idea given the fact that Dwaine Pretorius was the incumbent to for that role and then he was dropped because reasons. Admittedly Dwaine Pretorius’ average of 18 in ODI isn’t exactly bringing the rockets to the scientists, but he has played a magnificent knock in ODI cricket already, the smashing 50 he scored in New Zealand, while his bowling figures are pretty encouraging for a fourth bowler. An average below 30. An economy rate below 5. That man should have the inside lane in a world cup year. Wiaan should probably go to the world cup. At the very least as the beginning of the 2023 cycle. He shouldn’t start though. We need a blaster at seven, and for all his talents, as assured as his worldly success seems to be, Wiaan Mulder is no blaster.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

What do you do about a problem like Duminy?




When you properly introduce yourself to world cricket with an unbeaten half-century in a 414-run fourth-inning Test chase, and then embed yourself on world psyche with a 166-run run masterclass, the chances of you living up to the hype you would have created for yourself are understandably slim. Even with that caveat, JP Duminy's career has been rather disappointing. Historically speaking, for the last 40-odd years, the average Test cricket average has been around 31. Duminy's Test average was 32. Decidedly bang average. But that was his Test career. He has thankfully retired from that endeavour, not quite successful, but not really a failure. We have a world cup in 10 months, so we are here to talk about his ODI career.

Urbandictionary.com describes the phrase "finesse", as "meaning to make a profit off of someone by fooling them to buy something that is low quality or not real". When you look at Duminy's career average, it seems an acceptable, bordering on really good 37.84. When you look his creer average against the seven teams that qualified for the Champions Trophy this year (even ignoring the reality of Bangladesh having been pretty poor for large swathes of his career), this plummets to 29.97. Could you describe a man averaging 30 against top class opposition, having been an international for nearly 15 years, having played nearly 200 ODIs. Rarely, if ever has the phrase "finesse" been more applicable to an international athlete. Logic entails that to win a world cup, you need to beat the best teams in the world. Especially in this edition where there is only one team which could traditionally be called a minnow, Afghanistan. All the more worrying then when you take a closer look at JP's figures against top teams. How has JP failed against big sides? Let me count the ways.

In ICC competition, Duminy averages 31.29 at a strike rate of 90.32. Once again bang average, but on the face of it all just about acceptable. Scarier though, in ICC competition against the teams which competed in the 2017 Champions Trophy, i.e the top 8 teams in the world, he averages 16.73 at a strike rate of 74. But that's a bigger picture. How does it look specific to English conditions? Well, unfortunately, not much better. In English conditions, against the top 8 teams in the world, Duminy averages 22 at a 90s-esque strike rate of 71.27. Rarely if ever has a player flattered to deceive, or finessed, as well, for as long as JP Duminy. It is difficult, maybe even impossible for an athlete in the twilight of his years to properly recapture the magic from their peak years. It is in all likelihood beyond the realm of miracles to expect an athlete who never actually had the magic to 'recapture' a magic which he never even had.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Miller Time: Sometimes


David Miller. Sometimes known as Davey Miller, other times known as "Killer Miller". He is, with the retirement of AB de Villiers arguably the most destructive batsman in the Proteas set up when he gets it right. For the last three years leading into this year, he'd got it right more often than not. From 2015 until 2017, David Miller scored 1306 runs at an average of 52 and a strike rate of 110. You could argue that he was one of, if not the, premier #5 batsmen in world cricket for a spell. Of the active Protea members, only Faf du Plessis had a higher average than David Miller over the 2015-2017 time period. But that was then, and this is now. Right now David Miller looks like he could get cholera and end up constipated, such is his complete inability to get the runs. There are of course still flashes of the old nuke bomb Miller. As we speak, he has scored 129 runs without losing his wicket at a strike rate of nearly 200 in the Caribbean Premier League. He's basically in seek and destroy mode at #5 there, and it is working a dream. Unfortunately in the green and gold, one year away from possibly his last chance to lift a world cup, he's averaging 21.


 You can't keep someone who is having that barren a run, surely? Au contraire my comrades. Not only can we keep David Miller around, you see, we have no other choice. If we are to win the world cup next year (don't laugh), not only does David Miller have to stick around, he has to indeed be the standard bearer. You see, David Miller averages 53 in ICC competition. The great Hashim Amla averages 40. Quinton de Kock, promising as he is. gifted as he may be, averages 25. Our Captain. The grimmest man in cricket, Faf du Plessis, "only" averages 47. JP Duminy? It won't surprise you to know it's a not-quite saviour-worthy 31. There's really only one guy in South African cricket, with the bat anyway, who has a proven track record of being not just good... but elite with the bat at ICC competition. He can't buy a run right now, but if there's anything sport has taught us, it is that cream rises, and in the brightest lights, when the floor is heaviest and breaths are just that little bit tighter, David Miller shines harder, breathes better and moves better than any one else in that team.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Greatest South African cricketers: Jacques Kallis


Twenty-two. That is the amount of players in all of cricketing history who have taken more international wickets than Jacques Kallis. Four. That is in totality the amount of players in all of international cricket who have scored more runs than Jacques Kallis. No other player appears in the top 25 in both lists. In fact, no other player appears in the top fifty. You could expand that into a top 100 list, and the only player not named Kallis to feature would be Shahid Afridi. A mildly surprising fact, I suppose, but there you go. Of course, an achievement like this is inherently related to longevity, as well as continued health, but much of that longevity has to do with the fact that Jacques Kallis was for 15 years the undisputed best all-rounder in the game, especially when all formats were considered. Do you know who wasn't the best in their art for 15 years? Michael Jordan. You know who else? Tiger Woods.

In Jacques Kallis, South Africa had arguably the most statistically dominant athlete in their chosen profession and skillset since Don Bradman himself. Any man who scored 45 Test centuries would be a shoo-in for being the greatest batsman in that country's history. Don't believe me? Here is a list of players with 40 Test centuries:
Sachin Tendulkar
Ricky Ponting
Jacques Kallis
Kumar Sangakkara

With the exception Ponting, who is probably behind Bradman, all these individuals are most definitely the greatest batsmen in their respective country's history. But of the man in that hallowed circle, only Jacques Kallis could then arguably be argued to be one of the top 10-15 bowlers in their nation's history.

It is a criticism of Kallis that he wasn't a great match-winner, like Tendulkar, or Botham, or whoever else you may see as a match-winner. But how can you doubt the works of a man with 82 Test victories? Only three players have more victories? How can you doubt the works of a man with the third-most runs on Test victories in history? We live in a Style-based society. That is how. People see a man score slowly and they think it's detrimental. Ladies, and gentlemen, you have five days, fifteen sessions and 450 overs to win a Test match. A man scoring a hundred in 220 deliveries compared to 60 in 90 has almost never been the cause of a victory denied. As a nation, South Africa doesn't really do hero worship. If we revered athletes the way Americans or Indians do, Kallis would undoubtedly have a sneaker deal, or a book deal or something. But we don't so he doesn't. All he got is me writing an okayish blog entry extolling the virtues of the GOAT.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Greatest South African cricketers: Graeme Pollock

 If averages is your gig, then there can be no doubt that Graeme Pollock presents a very compelling case for being South Africa's greatest ever cricketer. In fact, he was voted just that in 2000, and it is debatable whether anything has happened since to bring that finding into disrepute. A crunching left-handed batsman. he had it all. The cover drive, the leg glance, the pull, the hook the cut. The ferocity. Before Viv Richards had the temerity to not wear helmets at bowlers bowling at 90mph, you could argue that Graeme Pollock was the original Master Blaster. Standing at 6'4, with a "road sweeper" for a bat, he certainly could make his presence felt. Many say Barry Richards is the greatest South African cricketer to ever lace them up. He certainly played well enough to back up that assertion in the limited opportunities he got. However, any man who played an innings Bill Lawry called the greatest knock he'd ever seen, or is acclaimed as the best left-hander ever seen by The Don himself has a particularly strong claim to being the Greatest.

PROS: His 274 vs Australia is arguably the greatest knock ever played by a South African, and if you disagree with that then there's a chance you may find his 140 vs England to be the greatest knock by a South African. It's hard to argue with the greatness of a man who only put together two all-time tons in a very abbreviated career. Even more so when that career ended with an average of 60.97.

CONS: Unfortunately, a short career means you had a short career. Sounds obvious, I suppose but it's important to note when calling someone the greatest. How often has a player who only played 12 games in a 38-game season won player of the season, no matter how incredibly superlative that season was? That's the largest drawback. Secondly, when you look at Pollock's list of opponents, it does, unfortunately, have absolutely a suspicious deficit when it comes to subcontinental opposition. Not his fault of course, but his mastery of different conditions will forever remain.

The old man isn't in the greatest health at the moment, but he certainly was the cricketing equivalent of Thor when he dropped his Mjolnir.