Coach Mark Boucher said on Monday that he is on a crusade to change the mindset of South African cricket which is why the Proteas could well field three frontline spinners – Keshav Maharaj, Tabraiz Shamsi and George Linde – in the first Test against Pakistan on Tuesday.
With Pakistan understandably going the dry and slow route in terms of the Karachi pitch, South Africa playing two spinners might have surprised a few people. For the Proteas’ attack to comprise three spinners and just two pacemen would be considered downright outrageous by many people used to “the South African way” of doing things.
But Boucher firmly believes that is their best chance of taking 20 wickets and, just like he was as a player, he wants the current Proteas to be bold.
“The weather is a lot cooler than normal on the sub-continent and there’s a lush green outfield. So conditions are completely different to in the past,” Boucher said in a press conference on Monday.
“In South Africa, colder weather means the pitch is a lot slower and with a quite moist outfield, I don’t know how big a weapon reverse-swing is going to be. But the pitch is really bare and there will definitely be turn.
“We are definitely not scared to go out and try something different. If you want to win away from home, you have to make brave calls. We’re not going to die wondering, you don’t want to go 1-0 down in a two-match series and then regret not playing the extra spinner.
“We’ve spoken about our mentality and the South African mindset has always been to revert back to seam. But I’ve said to the team I don’t want them to be scared of trying different options, if it looks like it’s going to turn then we must make good cricket calls. I’ve encouraged an open mindset instead of just going back to the norm.”
How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/DLixBXbNAn
— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) January 25, 2021
Boucher later told The Citizen that Linde, who scored 37 and 27 and took four for 133 in his only previous Test, against India in Ranchi in October 2019, is likely to get the nod.
“We will make a call on the all-rounder – whether it’s a seam bowler or a spinner – and there’s a very big possibility that we will go with two seamers and three spinners, if it’s really going to turn,” Boucher said.
“George showed before he can bat in sub-continent conditions and he’s been in good form with the bat for the Cape Cobras. Wiaan Mulder played really well in South African conditions, but it’s about who will create more opportunities, who can dry up an end in these conditions? And having George, Kesh, KG Rabada and Anrich Nortje doesn’t make our tail too long, it’s possible for those guys to score some runs too,” Boucher said.
With Shamsi being an aggressive wrist-spinner and Rabada and Nortje not really being holding bowlers, it looks like South Africa will go to town with attacking bowling and Maharaj could well perform the holding role.
“A lot of thought has gone into how we’re going to pick up 20 wickets on pitches that are generally good for the first three days. We’re not going to go in thinking about containing. Shamsi is an attacking, aggressive spinner, so if conditions suit, why not use him? We’ve got attacking options with spin, and pace through the air in flat conditions is the seamer’s best weapon and we’ve got that covered.
“But you also need to balance your attack and someone needs to do the containing role. Kesh didn’t bowl a lot against Sri Lanka because the pitches were more conducive to spin, but he’s hungry to get stuck in and do his role as the main spin bowler here. He wasn’t at his best on the last tour to India, but we’ve worked on a few technical things and he’s come on leaps and bounds,” Boucher said.