Fielding guru starts with SA
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - World-renowned, converted baseball coach Mike Young began his tenure as fielding consultant to the Proteas at Newlands here on Monday.
Three days ahead of their season-opening, first Twenty20 international against Australia on Thursday, the national squad began their association with new coach Gary Kirsten and his brains trust with a “middle” session in the subsiding, but still gusting north-wester that has been rather buffeting the city since the early hours.
At a media briefing just ahead of the practice, team manager Mohammed Moosajee confirmed that Chicago-born Young, 55, would be calling the fielding drills.
It had been revealed in June that Young, who has seen prior service with both the Australian and Indian national teams (including the latter during Kirsten’s own successful tenure there) and “mental coach” Paddy Upton would be aiding the Proteas’ cause this summer.
“Mike has joined Cricket South Africa as a consultant fielding coach to the national team and will also be involved in Corrie van Zyl’s High Performance programme, plus assisting the six franchises,” Moosajee said.
Young, who has also worked with IPL side the Deccan Chargers, employs his baseball expertise - he was once the Australian national baseball team coach - to assist leading cricketers in the areas of throwing, catching and positioning.
Asked what qualities the Proteas were seeking from Young, Moosajee told Sport24: “Gary was always given permission to bring in consultants as he sees fit, to suit our system.
“The two he quickly identified were Paddy Upton from a mental conditioning point of view and the second guy he was keen to take on was Mike ... it was just a matter of agreeing to terms and seeing if he was available.”
The lead-up to the Aussie series, which will feature activity in all three major forms of the game, has been less than ideal from a South African perspective, with a necessarily delayed reunion of the Proteas because of the Champions League distraction.
“The main thing is probably just to connect with each other again as we haven’t seen each other for a while,” senior left-arm spinner Robin Peterson said at the briefing. “We’ve got to build team spirit again over the next couple of days and make dead sure we’re ready for Thursday.
“I think it’s important we start well to get momentum going, as it is a short tour on the whole.”
Asked how he thought the Newlands pitch might play, given that this is unusually early in the Western Cape summer for a T20 international, Peterson replied: “I’ve never really played under lights this early in the season at the ground!
“It’ll be foreign territory in some ways. Generally the wicket here is pretty good; maybe it will be a bit slower than normal but it’s just about adapting on the day and a nice little challenge for the batsmen, I think.”
Wicketkeeper Heino Kuhn, set to play just his fourth T20 international, said he had learnt from Titans team-mate AB de Villiers, the new Proteas limited-overs captain who is absent through injury at present, to “grab your opportunity when it comes, (especially if it’s) against the Aussies” and said he considered Thursday “like a World Cup final” for himself.
He told Sport24 he considers Mark Boucher - expected to be fit for the subsequent ODI series - a role model behind the stumps.
“Bouchie’s obviously a good guy to look up to; it feels as if he’s played forever. His record speaks for itself and I love chatting to him. AB’s also helped me a great deal.”