'We are short of 140km guys'
Cape Town - In the second and final part of a Q 'n A by Rob Houwing
with ANDREW HUDSON
in Durban, the Proteas’ national selection chief discusses England’s hot streak, and some pace bowling concerns closer to home.Part 1: Q 'n A with Andrew HudsonThere are other fish to fry first, but arguably the Proteas’ most difficult task over the next year is the England away series in 2012?
Yes, it’s great for world cricket having a strong England at present. It’s been a while since they’ve played at this sort of level. It’s a stage by stage process for us, but at the same time we will begin to already contemplate England, and look at different people ahead of that (challenge). Conditions are slightly different in terms of swing, and the bang-it-in, back-of-a-length approach not appropriate there. They’re a formidable Test team and only getting better and better, it seems.
SA ‘A’ lost to Australia ‘A’ three times in a row at a recent one-day tournament in Zimbabwe, including twice from apparent winning positions ... was that a sign of some lingering mental fragility in our game?
No, not really. I think the guys mostly played exceptionally well. The preparation prior to it wasn’t ideal, being an off-season. I believe the Australian side had had more time together as a unit before getting to Zimbabwe. We only had a three-day camp – it seemed we played progressively better as the tournament went on. So I wouldn't read too much into what happened. They held their own and performed. In terms of SA ‘A’, you need to understand that at times it’s not necessarily our second best side; we want to try to mix it to ensure we see some up-and-coming talent, but also take some older guys along to pass on their experience. I think Australia go more forcefully for a true ‘second-string’ approach, so they had a stronger unit. With transformation and the like, our method also gives an opportunity to expose potential.As far as those older players are concerned, you were able to have another look in Zimbabwe at a Jacques Rudolph, who scored plenty of runs ...
Exactly. In some cases guys like Jacques probably wonder how they’re really being viewed when they play in the ‘A’ side: are they just present as older guys passing on wisdom? It was nice that he really took the opportunity and is obviously in good nick.There seems a bit of flux surrounding an opening position in the Test side: does this bring him strongly back into the picture?
I won’t comment specifically on that. As a selection panel we’ve got to look at all the variables, and also determine what style of cricket Gary (Kirsten) wants to play. For example, what sort of scoring rates are we going to seek? Do we want an attacking or containing spinner? Who plays the holding role, under what conditions? There’s a lot to consider. But yes, there are people pushing for places, and that’s healthy, even though guys in possession have also done well so I don’t want to put pressure on specific players.
Do we have a problem in terms of genuinely slippery pace bowlers behind Messrs Steyn and Morkel? A bit of a gap developing to the next customers in quality terms?
We are not producing a plethora of guys bowling 140km/h-plus, just at the moment. But there’s a fit Wayne Parnell to consider ... he’s sort of the third guy in terms of pace. There are some others around who have the pace, like Friedel de Wet. Craig Alexander is also up there, with a nice little bit of shape to go with it. But here’s a bit of focus for Corrie (van Zyl) and Vinnie (Barnes) in High Performance, and for Allan Donald as bowling coach - identify the next Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel! We do need to start to work in that regard. It will affect us if we lose one of the top two ... it’s unrealistic to think both will always be available together in our Test side. We must manage them and hope they stay fit.
To me some South African pitches look a bit more tired than a few years ago. Is that a concern for you? Are our strips changing in character?
I don’t think it’s too much of an issue yet at our first-class grounds. Yes, there have been some dodgy ones there as well, but for me it seems more at nurturing level that there’s an issue sometimes: your club, Under-19 and schools level. They aren’t great there. They are generally slow and a little bit unpredictable, plus don’t have the carry and bounce you’d want. It breeds batsmen who can’t fully develop their strokes; more survivors and a ‘block it or hit it out of the park’ sort of approach. You want to know that if it’s pitched up, in the slot, you can play through the line and hit it through the covers for four. That’s only able to happen on the better-quality wickets. I do think generally we can still make our Test pitches fit our requirements - depending on overhead conditions Kingsmead will always bounce and always be difficult to bat on. Newlands has continued to spin a bit; Centurion plays well and Wanderers is also fine. Our spin options are on the up, so at some venues we may even be able to consider two spinners, depending on circumstance. I can’t imagine we’ll move too far away from our long-time strength, though: seam and quick bowlers.