New role for Herschelle?
Cape Town - In the second instalment of a two-part Q&A by Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing with GRAEME SMITH, the Proteas captain talks specifically on the imminent ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.
Click HERE for Part 1
Observers arguably aren’t hyping up the Proteas for the World Twenty20 quite as much as they’ve tended to do for previous ICC one-day tournaments. Is that a bit of a blessing?
Ja, I mean … when you’ve been to a few tournaments you just sort of deal with (whatever pundits are saying). But we can just go about our work; the thing about the T20 format is that one key performance on a day, one great bowling spell … and you can win or lose on that. In the last one (in England) we played some great cricket, we were ready for it. But then Pakistan brought some unpredictable elements and maybe in some respects we were just too “well-planned” when we encountered them. These T20 tournaments are so short; you really need to think on your feet and make right decisions at right times – that’s the challenge for everyone. Maybe trust gut feels a bit more …
Do you anticipate par scores being a little lower on the West Indian pitches than would ordinarily be the T20 case?
Look, myself, Corrie (van Zyl), Vinnie (Barnes) and the selectors have some ideas on what our XI should be and where we want to go strategically. I imagine the surfaces will get slower and more worn during the event, as they did in England, with some turn. That first week there, with the warm-up games and so on … there’ll be a lot of information-gathering on the local cricketing climate.
Can you pinpoint an obvious dangerous team, outside of your own?
World cricket is quite fluid at the moment. I think you’ll see Australia really “competing” in this tournament now. I sometimes think the biggest challenge in Twenty20 is not so much getting the right players – though that’s important – but formulating your style of play. The Aussies have (settled on) three big fast bowlers, and have found a few power-hitters to slot into the right area. But then your unpredictable teams like Sri Lanka and India have so much ability. It will also be interesting to see how a side like England go … I genuinely think it’s wide open. It should be worth watching for that very reason. No case of knowing in advance that a particular team ought to roll so-and-so, as might have been the case in some ICC tournaments (in the past).
The Kallis factor: he just seems to show no signs of deterioration as an all-rounder, despite his 34 years. When’s he finally going to lose his edge?
All he loses, more and more, is his hair! The batting aspect … he’s got himself so fit now; shed a lot of weight. I think that one bad season he had in his career (around the 2008 tour of England – Sport24) just motivated and spurred him more. He’s a very self-motivated guy: quite introverted, but inside a big fire burns in him, in terms of what he wants to achieve. We’ve become good friends over the years and to see Jakes performing as he has been … it’s very rewarding. As a bowler, being still able to hit 135-140km/h is the really big revelation, that strength he shows. Touch wood, he seems to recover (from injuries) fast and not get many of them. I think the big tick for him is having found a way to be successful in the T20 format.
JP Duminy seems to have got some form back, towards the tail-end of the IPL. But won’t off-spinners still be queuing up to have a crack at him whenever possible?
I don’t know if it’s so much an off-spin (problem) or whether he just got into a broader rut, and the weight of expectation on his shoulders got a bit much for a while. They have thrown some off-spinners at him in the IPL and he’s coped fine, I think. More than anything with JP, when you go through a tough trot like that, there’s a lot of noise in your head and you feel that pressure. Perhaps not playing in the initial stages of the IPL was a good thing …a chance to sit back and get away from the coalface. He’s bounced back with some runs. His finishing capabilities in this format are important to us, not forgetting his own bowling. I still think his own biggest challenge is not to over-complicate. He’s got a really good head on his shoulders, a humble guy. But he wants things so badly … it can over-complicate his life.
No more Andrew Hall type of player, and Charl Langeveldt is not getting any younger as a death bowler. Does new face Rusty Theron have the temperament to do that job for you, either in this tournament or up the line?
I hope so; he’s certainly done it over the last few seasons at domestic level and deserves this chance for South Africa. I don’t know Rusty personally that well; not played much cricket with him. I’ll get to know him better over there. I’d like him to stick to what works for him; I hope he hasn’t been confused by too much “try this, try that” in the IPL. Keep it simple: he’s got natural variation in his action and it’s about working with that. International cricket brings different pressures, but I think he’ll be fine. Don’t forget we’ve got Parny (Wayne Parnell) who is still very young and developing all the time. Here’s a 20-year-old always bowling up front, always bowling in power-plays and always at the death! He’s learning the hard way and it’s good. I still hopes Langers pushes at this event and then for the 2011 World Cup as well – having his experience among our group of bowlers is nice.
You seem to have a healthy stock of boundary-seeking batsmen?
You need to have your top five do the hard yards, maybe with one of them batting through, and setting it up for some guys down the order to do the “finishing” … maybe aiming for 100 in the last 10. I’m thinking you could even look at someone like Hersch (Gibbs) operating in the lower middle-order, maybe finishing rather than starting T20 games. Perhaps he’s better used for that last power-play in one-day cricket. Those are things to chew on. I know it’s a mind-shift for him, but the way he’s playing at the moment, you almost need the game to dictate itself for him. Maybe holding him back to power-plays gives him a clearer focus on exactly what he’s (got to do).