Makhaya rates SA fire
15 September 2012 | HEINZ SCHENK
Varied is possibly the most suitable label that can be stamped on the leading man’s group of exponents. But an abundance of riches doesn’t mean squat if it can’t be yoked in an efficient manner.
And De Villiers, by his own admission, is still in the infancy of an arduous journey towards captaincy maturity. His tenure has been typified by exciting impudence at stages but he’s discovered that the understanding of certain intricacies is only acquired with time.
In his prime, Makhaya Ntini would’ve been entrusted with the responsibility of playing an integral role in any national Twenty20 combination as pace man – a tradition that hasn’t changed, meaning much is expected of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
Yet South Africa’s second highest wicket-taker in Test cricket experienced enough difficulty with Sri Lankan conditions to know that prudence in managing the attack will prove key for De Villiers.
“People talk about India being unforgivable for fast bowlers. “I tell you, Sri Lanka is even worse,” noted Ntini in customary affable tone. “To be honest, I think it’s almost a given that our fast bowlers will have to compromise on those wickets.
There probably won’t be any opportunity to just bang it in. The key lies in decision-making, you need to formulate sharp plans to get the batters out and be disciplined.”
Fundamentally, the Proteas will need to cultivate an attitude where their still ingrained reliance on pace is slackened. The view gains credence after De Villiers’ ultimately unwise decision to revert back to Wayne Parnell in the 11-over game at Edgbaston on Wednesday, when even a part-time tweaker might’ve been a better bet on a responsive surface.
Ntini doesn’t believe in drastic action but suggests a re-think on a candidate like Lonwabo Tsotsobe. “Until recently, he was the leading bowler in one-day internationals. Lonwabo is an ideal quicker option in Sri Lankan conditions.
He provides inherent variety by virtue of being left-handed and has performed really well in sub-continent conditions,” he said. That’s a well-merited point – Tsotsobe made his mark as an international bowler against Pakistan in the UAE just under two years ago. “But his tour of England has been average.
The coaches will need to back him and help him regain confidence. I would encourage using him for the tournament.” Ntini concurs with the assertion that spin will be vital. “Robin Peterson’s form has been really pleasing but I think Johan Botha will still be the spin go-to guy. “He’s a wily bowler and he’s experienced. We’ll also see that the part-timers like JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis get an increased workload.
That’s good, those guys need to know that they have a role to play.” As a result, the tactical demands on De Villiers will be onerous but alleviating his plight is the consensus that South Africa’s overall build-up has been more in-line with demands of the slap bang format.
“The selectors have made a point of checking out what players could be useful for the team and tested many combinations. But I’m not one of the guys that believes in specialists. Our team has individuals capable of playing all formats,” said Ntini. “Should we have previously left a guy like Hashim Amla out for a specialist just because he wasn’t seen as a T20 player?
Look how he’s done in England. We shouldn’t worry about selecting specialists if they aren’t the best for the job.” Having experienced his fair share of ICC tournament heartache, Ntini’s recipe for success is simple. “The great thing about T20 is everyone’s a danger. Look what New Zealand did to us in last year’s World Cup,” he said. “But the important thing for the guys is to compete against themselves, not the other sides.”
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