Summer snooze for Proteas
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Cape Town – Is it just
me or does it seem as though the first half of the 2011/12 season is
being marked by some unusually easy living for the national Test cricket
Of course it is not far up the drag on the calendar
anyway, but some of the Proteas squad must think it’s Christmas, so
limited have been the demands on them in terms of honest “middle” time
for either country or franchise.
Put it this way: the campaign
has been highly unusual thus far for the manner in which it has
precluded batsmen from the possibility of quite literally occupying the
crease all day or bowlers from running in for 24-overs-a-day stints
beneath an unforgiving sun.
Those are tried and trusted ways,
let’s face it, of getting cricketers into an acceptable groove, yet the
season has been very stop-start – with a stronger emphasis, I would
argue, on the “stop” part – and unevenly weighted in favour of
limited-overs fare when there has mercifully been some activity.
in mind that even the insanely short Australian Test series didn’t
produce as much cricket as might have been anticipated – the Newlands
one lasted three days, including an 18-over completed Aussie second
innings, although that is obviously no crime on the part of the host
Not too surprisingly, many of the Proteas players have
clearly cashed in gleefully on the amount of recreational time that has
been generously afforded them.
That’s not my thumb-suck view: the
very public world of Twitter tells you much of what you might fancy
knowing about personal schedules and down-time priorities of sports
stars these days.
Captain Graeme Smith even saw fit to introduce a
tongue-in-cheek element to a tweet a few days ago: “Looking forward
(to) Dec ... Schalk Burger’s wedding (and) Christmas ... love Christmas!
Yes, yes, also the cricket, before I catch it again.”
bit, of course, was obviously a jocular reference to his copping it a
fair bit from the South African public when he didn’t return from
another failed World Cup campaign, in India, with the rest of the troops
much earlier this year, opting instead to go to Europe before returning
to our shores.
Still, it was good to know that the imminent
visit of Sri Lanka, for a lengthier itinerary in South Africa than
experienced recently when the Australians were here, hadn’t completely
escaped the mind of the seasoned Test leader.
The world’s No 1
fast bowler Dale Steyn hasn’t exactly been over-stretched, either,
although there was talk, in fairness, that he saw out the surrendered
second and final Test against the Aussies last month with a back
problem, so a limited work-load in the lead-up to the three-Test Sri
Lankan series has perhaps not been a bad thing.
tweeted some pictures from a break at Victoria Falls and this weekend
revealed that some crayfish fishing was on his time-off roster.
head-hunter Morne Morkel, meanwhile, had a weekend request for his
Twitter followers: “Need a (Nedbank Challenge) golf update please ... on
my way to Kruger Park for a couple of days.”
AB de Villiers
revealed that he was spending some time in Cape Town, and lamenting the
typical summer south-easterly wind: “CT the new windy city ...
definitely not playing golf today ... quick brunch then the TV to watch
Charl Schwartzel dominate.”
In defence of the players having a
bonus “jolly”, after an unusually long off-season preceding the
disappointingly squared Aussie mini-series, the timing of the CSA
domestic scheduling this summer has been utterly lousy in the way in the
way it has served – or rather, not served – the cause of Smith’s team.
simply hasn’t been enough SuperSport Series four-day cricket available
for the cream of the national squad to knuckle down to, whilst some have
had less game-time than others toward the climax of the 1-Day Cup – the
Lions, Titans and Dolphins did not advance beyond the round-robin
Fortunately several Test stalwarts will presumably be in
earnest preparation mode this week for the final of the 50-overs
competition on Friday, featuring the Cobras against the Warriors at
That group should include Smith, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Dale Steyn (Cobras), as well as the Warriors’ Ashwell Prince.
will be fascinating to see whether Vernon Philander gets a game in the
domestic showpiece – he was man of the series for his 14 wickets in the
Tests against Australia but not yet been used by the Cobras in the 1-Day
Cup where Rory Kleinveldt and veteran Charl Langeveldt have done well
with the ball up front and they also have Steyn to call on at present
plus plenty of all-rounders.
Philander is a classic case of a
Proteas Test player who remains underdone for longer-format bowling
mileage despite the season supposedly so well-established. Imran Tahir,
entrusted with that tricky art of leg-spin, is certainly another.
Frankly, it’s high time a solid, intensive spate of cricket broke out.
hoping the Proteas are trim, fired-up and ready to hit the ground
running in time for the first Test against the limited Lankans at
Centurion (they finally reconvene as a group next Sunday) from December
Has everyone been pulling hard enough in the hiatus?
Hmm, hope so ...