IPL helps Kallis stay in World Cup frame

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg

Jacques Kallis does not do vulnerability. He also does not do shopping malls. But there he was a few days ago in a photograph he posted on Twitter, covering his eyes amid the cacophony of capitalism that is Dubai Mall.

“I can’t look,” Kallis captioned his picture. “Somebody come save me.”

Above him as he stood in front of a prettily pink shop, a soaring sign gave a clue to what Kallis could not countenance: “Victoria’s Secret”.

According to Dave Rundle, Kallis’ agent, this is all the fault of the allrounder’s girlfriend and shopping companion, Kim Rivalland.

“He’s happy,” Rundle said yesterday. He also explained that Rivalland – a Pilates instructor – was partly responsible for the excellent conditioning Kallis is in for the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he is playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Kallis walked to the crease in Abu Dhabi on April 16 having last played on February 9. But there was no sign of ring rust as he clipped the Mumbai Indians’ attack for 72 off 46 balls and took an important catch in the deep that would have eluded many players younger than his 38 years.

Against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kallis was fifth out for 43 in the 16th over after his team had been reduced to 10/2 in eight balls before losing two more wickets in the 12th over.

Kallis bowled 13 out of a possible 16 overs in his first four games in the IPL. He went wicketless only once and never conceded more than 32 runs in four overs.

Above and beyond all that, Kallis has looked and played like a man who has found a way to steal time. Having played his last T20 for SA in 2012 and retired from test cricket on Christmas Day, it seems Kallis has given himself the gift of revitalisation.

Or, as Rundle said, “When you give up one form of the game you have time to concentrate on another form.”

The only format Proteas fans still consider in connection with Kallis is the 50-over game, with a particular focus on the 2015 World Cup.

“I don’t know what SA cricket is thinking, but Jacques is available for the World Cup,” Rundle said. “He’s never said he deserves a spot in the side, but he wants to play. If he doesn’t feel he can contribute he wouldn’t make himself available.”

But the here and now is the IPL. What does Kallis’ performance in the IPL mean for his chances of playing in the World Cup?

“I would never discount him,” Barry Richards said. “He would add so much if he stays fit and motivated.

“I don’t see why his name shouldn’t stay in the frame, but there are issues to sort out like who gets dropped for Jacques.”

SA are scheduled to play 15 or 16 one-day internationals before they open their World Cup campaign against Zimbabwe in Hamilton on February 15 next year.

Those games will be a better barometer of Kallis’ readiness than anything he does in the IPL. That means he will need to play most of them.

“If there’s nothing to judge him on, it makes it more difficult to select him,” Richards said. “Conversely, if he’s playing well and scoring runs it’s going to be hard to leave him out.”

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Cricket or no cricket, we still know what the suits did last summer

Gocricket.com – http://www.gocricket.com/Cricket-or-no-cricket-we-still-know-what-the-suits-did-last-summer/Telford-Vice/columnshow/34366374.cms

TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg

Even as the county season goes gently into that good afternoon and the Indian Premier League rages hard across the night sky, in South Africa cricket is nothing more than a warming thought against the bleak reality of looming winter.

It would be spurious to suggest the season is over. To say cricket still respects a season is tantamount to accusing AB de Villiers of stodginess. But, in the coming months, the ground in Johannesburg will freeze and the grass orphaned on it will turn a deathly shade of jaundice. In Cape Town, weeks of rain will drown any talk of cricket. In Durban, where winter visits for a day once every 10 years, cricket would be possible. But pitches prepared outside of the growing season there receive a bowled ball like a soufflé might a fork.

Yes, we have no cricket. No, that is not a bad thing. In this age of corporatised sport, we should welcome a respite from the mindlessness that the suits are evilly adept at pouring into our heads. When the squawk of marketing stops it is time to listen – to ourselves, to others who think about cricket, to still others who do not think about cricket except to wonder how and why it has made such a mess of itself.   

The slow burning truth is finally in full flame: the money cricket makes for a slippery few has become more important than cricket itself. Gone is the sham that those who run cricket do so for the good of the game. Cricket is naked in its vulnerability while its emperors parade clothes of obscene opulence. Anyone who believes otherwise must have been watching football while the Big Three swallowed the Small Seven with the cold efficiency of a python.

No-one who knows their way around the ICC could expect this old-fashioned gentleman’s club to raise a stick to the snake, much less behead it. Similarly, the national boards who tried to sell the idea that they were opposed to the restructure were in fact hoping to make enough noise to force the Big Three to toss them a concessionary bone before they would shut up and await their swallowing.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) looked especially pathetic when, having been the first of the dissenters, they shut up and thought of their bank balance being restored to fatness, which would follow their patched up relations with India. Being swallowed, integrity and all, was a reasonable price apparently. But the hollow posturing did not fool many in South Africa. We know CSA do not do what they say they will and do what they have said they will not.

Yet we also know that when they are not floundering in the big pond of the ICC boardroom, sacking Ray Jennings in the afterglow of his under-19 team winning the World Cup, or trying to bully or co-opt the press, CSA do good work. They have sincere zeal to protect and nurture the flame of cricket that has flickered in black communities for a century and more. Sponsors have been signed despite the damage caused by the IPL bonus scandal that claimed the career of CSA’s former chief executive, Gerald Majola. A businesslike buzz hovers over their ever more ambitious projects and expanding systems.

Much of the above will resonate with the citizens of the unboundaried nation of cricket around the world. No committee gets everything right and few get everything wrong. Usually, they muddle through and we hope they do more right than they do wrong. Collectives do not work perfectly, but we put up with them in the absence of a better way to get things done. However, dictatorships work only for the dictator. Cricket has lived under a dictatorship since England and Australia called the shots. Now it has voted to legislate a different dictatorship, which it allowed to take power several years ago. Shame, forever, on this stupid game.

Clarity comes when the ground freezes, the rain refuses to stop and pitches are not prepared lest they be puddings. Yes, here in South Africa, we have no cricket. No, that does not mean we no longer know what the suits did last summer.

Their actions stink in the memory even as the county season goes gently into that good afternoon and the IPL rages hard across the night sky.

One day, because of what they have done and the wrongheaded decisions that must follow, the season will be over – everywhere. 

From casino casualties to millionaires: how umpiring has changed

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg

Rudi Koertzen remembers his first pay packet as an umpire all too well: “It was R75.” For that princely sum, Koertzen and his colleague, Lou Rautenbach, officiated in a Benson and Hedges game at the Victoria Ground in King William’s Town in the late 1980s.

“We were staying at the hotel at the casino and I thought I could double the money,” Koertzen said. “But it never got to that stage, and the next morning after we flew back to PE I had to borrow R10 from Lou to pay for my parking at the airport.”

Nowadays umpires earn around R45 000 for standing in a test. Koertzen, who hung up his white coat in 2010, said he missed the gravy boat.

“I wish I was five years younger, then I could have stuck around for another five years. These guys are on their way to being millionaires.”

“These guys” are the 11 umpires who make up the International Cricket Council’s elite panel. They can expect to stand in eight to 10 tests a year – an annual salary of between R360 000 and R450 000.

Eight are from England and Australia, while Marais Erasmus is the only South African on the panel.

Six, including Erasmus, reached first-class level as players. Another four – Kumar Dharmasena, Ian Gould, Paul Reiffel and Richard Illingworth – turned out for their countries. The odd umpire out is Steve Davis, whose highest claim to fame is having played grade cricket in Australia.

Some would say that shows, given the unathletic figure Davis cuts on the field and his seeming propensity for making errors.

But Koertzen, himself a graduate of nothing more impressive than league cricket, was adamant that playing at a high level was not a requirement for a career in umpiring. 

“Umpiring is about how strong you are as a person and your rapport with people,” he said. “I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times a player has come up to me and said, ‘That was a shit decision’.”

No-one has stood in more international matches than Koertzen, a member of the original elite panel in 2002 whose 108 tests, 209 one-dayers and 14 T20s add up to 331 games at the highest level.

He has officiated in the women’s World T20, the Indian Premier League, the Champions League T20, a lone second XI county championship match – Worcestershire versus Sussex at New Road in 2001 – and in games involving the national teams of Nigeria, Norway, Botswana, Germany and Kuwait.

However, Koertzen himself would take issue with the veracity of all that: “T20 is not cricket; it’s rubbish.”

Like the game itself, umpiring is transformed from what it was when Koertzen made his first-class debut in a Bowl game between Griqualand West and Western Province B in Kimberley in November, 1981.

“It was really difficult to get to the top in those days, but things were different then,” Koertzen said. “Players would call you all sorts of names on the field but after the game you would have a beer together. Now they try to hide the umpires away.”

And another thing: “I’ve always been in favour of using technology, but the poor third umpire does everything these days. What really gets me is when a batsman is dismissed and they say, ‘Hang on – let’s check for the no-ball.’ Then we see the replay and the bowler’s foot is halfway over the crease.”

Want to put R75 on that happening too many times next season, Rudi?

Play cricket in England or India – you choose

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg

England for education, India for impact. According to Shaun Pollock, that is the choice facing cricketers good enough to land deals with counties or Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises.

A dozen of SA’s top players have signed up for IPL sides this year. Of those, JP Duminy and David Miller, who have each scored two half-centuries in three innings, were flying the flag highest by featuring among the top four run-scorers in the tournament going into yesterday’s match.

Five prominent SA players are on the county books in England, where the first-class championship has started. Ashwell Prince scored a century in his first match for Lancashire, Graeme Smith made a half-century for Surrey and Kyle Abbott has taken 11 wickets in two games for Hampshire.

Alviro Petersen has scored 58 runs in three innings for Somerset, where he has batted at No. 3 and 4 instead of the opening berth he fills in SA. Jacques Rudolph has nine runs to show for his efforts after two innings for Glamorgan.

Pollock has first-hand knowledge of both county cricket and the IPL. He played for Warwickshire from 1996 to 2002 and for the Mumbai Indians in the inaugural IPL in 2008. He then served as Mumbai’s bowling coach in 2009 and as their coach in 2011 and 2012.   

“County cricket is very good from a learning perspective,” Pollock said yesterday. “If someone wants to learn about playing in different conditions, country cricket is the place to do so.

“It’s tough – the counties get their money’s worth, especially from the overseas pros.

“But, as a bowler, you come across green seaming wickets early in the season and they get dry towards the end of the season. As a batsman, you learn to deal with those conditions.

“You also learn about taking responsibility and about different team dynamics.

“Even as an older player you can go and hone your skills by playing county cricket, but it is especially good for younger players.”

So, which would be the more valuable experience for players whose major commitments are to teams in their home countries?

“From a SA perspective, you would prefer your players to play in the IPL because it’s not too taxing on the body,” Pollock said. “But, particularly as an established player, you want to be where the best players are.”

Not to mention where the money is. David Miller and Dale Steyn are on top of the SA salary pile in the IPL pile with more than R22-million each, while of the 12 only Marchant de Lange will make less than a R1-million – and his more than R520 000 for six-and-a-half weeks’ work is not to be sneezed at.

By contrast, leading overseas professionals in county cricket can expect to be paid around R2-million for a season – or part thereof – that lasts for a week short of six months.

Who will get SA’s revs up after Steyn?

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg

“Half my career, I was on one knee,” Hugh Page said yesterday, while Brett Schultz gave a novel explanation for the injury that ended his time at the top: “My bum muscle exploded.”

Dale Steyn knows how those two fast bowlers of yore feel. Little went wrong with Steyn’s body for 29 years. But, for his 30th birthday on June 27 last year, he gave himself five injuries – the side, groin, glute, neck and ankle problems he had after the Champions Trophy in England. Since then, Steyn has had two hamstring strains, a rib issue and an upset stomach. 

“It’s like an old car; you’ve got to go in for more frequent services along the way,” Schultz said.

Schultz, 43, played the last of his nine tests in a career blighted by injury less than two months after his 27th birthday. He explained that he had not answered an earlier telephone call yesterday because he was visiting a chiropractor at the time.

“It’s the nature of our vocation,” Schultz said. “The body is put under tremendous stress. As you get older, you don’t recover as quickly and your mind is also not as strong. You start thinking about longevity versus performance.”

But the powersaving options dwindle and retirement wins. What then for SA? Steyn has been the sharpest, deadliest arrow in their quiver since 2008, when he first became the No. 1 ranked test bowler. He is a long way from spent but the question of who could succeed him as a dominant force is being asked.

“There’s no-one in our current set-up who can get the revs up to 8000, and on all kinds of surfaces, like Steyn can,” Schultz said.

Page concurred – “It is a worry; what happens after Dale Steyn?” – but he also saw a glimmer of hope named Beuran Hendricks: “He needs to work on his consistency, but anyone who can get it up to 144km/h is going to be hard to handle.”

What of Marchant de Lange, the 2.01m quick who looks as suited to the side of a scrum as he does to the bowling crease?

“His action is not very fluid, so he is quite likely to break down,” Page said. “That’s why I like Hendricks; he has a very fluid action.”

De Lange is 23. Already he has sacrificed plenty of game time to injuries including a recurring stress fracture of the lower back.

Sad as that truth was, it did not surprise Makhaya Ntini: “I used to listen to my body, and I used to do what it needed me to do.

“I used to run every day, sometimes before and after play. That meant my body was never stiff. These days they seem to believe more in massage.

“That means your body doesn’t get a chance to recover and it gets stiff. Then you push yourself before you’re warm enough and there’s not enough blood in your muscles.”

For Ntini, Wayne Parnell was Steyn’s most likely successor as SA’s enforcer. But that recommendation was conditional.

“He has the potential and he swings the ball, but I wouldn’t say he has the aggression,” Ntini said. “And I don’t know if he is going to last.

“Bowlers these days are not fit in the sense that they need to be better prepared. Too many are here today, gone tomorrow.”

CSA dump World Cup-winning Jennings

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg

Ray Jennings is out of a job less than eight weeks after reaching the pinnacle of his coaching career by guiding SA’s under-19 team to World Cup glory.

Cricket SA (CSA) said yesterday former Strikers coach and Lions assistant coach Lawrence Mahatlane would replace Jennings. Shukri Conrad, previously coach of the Strikers, the Lions and the Cobras, has been appointed coach of CSA’s academy.

“My passion has always been about the development of young cricketers,” Mahatlane said yesterday. “I believe I can make a difference at this level.”

Under Mahatlane, Gauteng won the three-day competition in 2006-07 and the next season’s one-day event.

Conrad won the one-day title with the Strikers in 2003-04, the season before the introduction of franchises, and the 2006-07 one-day, 2008-09 T20 and 2009-10 first-class championships after moving to the Cape.

He said his new role would involve serving as a link between the semi-professional and franchise systems.

Jennings said he was informed yesterday by CSA that his contract would not be renewed when it expires at the end of this month. He said he was “bitterly disappointed” by CSA’s decision.

In line with CSA’s plan to restructure junior cricket, Jennings re-applied for a position and said he was interviewed “two or three weeks ago”.

Yesterday, the fifth last working day of April, he was told his services would no longer be required.

Asked what his next career move would be, Jennings could not say.

“I’ve stayed in SA, I’ve been loyal to SA, I haven’t looked elsewhere like other coaches have, and my record speaks for itself,” he said. “But if the system doesn’t want you then it doesn’t want you.”

Jennings, a star wicketkeeper during SA’s international isolation, coached the then Transvaal team and Easterns before taking the reins with SA A.

In October 2004, he was named SA’s caretaker coach. Under him, SA lost test series to India and England and won rubbers against Zimbabwe and West Indies. Mickey Arthur succeeded Jennings in May 2005. He has been the national under-19 coach since 2006.

Jennings coached Indian Premier League franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore from 2009 until last year. They reached the final in 2009 and 2011 and the semi-finals in 2010.

On March 1, SA beat Pakistan by six wickets in the under-19 World Cup final in Dubai this country’s first victory in any International Cricket Council tournament since 1998.

Two days later, the squad paraded their trophy at Newlands, where the senior SA team were being handed a hiding by Australia in the third test.

Jennings was in high spirits that day: “We’ve played the best. We are the best. We’ve done something right.”

But it seems, by CSA’s standards, Jennings did not do the right thing well enough to be given the chance to keep doing it.

“Change is inevitable,” a CSA statement yesterday quoted chief executive Haroon Lorgat as saying. Lorgat also thanked Jennings for his “fantastic service”.

Jennings had a different message for his under-19 team yesterday: “Good luck and thank you for leaving me some good memories.”

IPL: A race within a tournament within a search for Smith’s replacement

GOcricket.com – http://www.gocricket.com/IPL-A-race-within-a-tournament-within-a-search-for-Smiths-replacement/Telford-Vice/columnshow/34074706.cms

TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg

Faf du Plessis has successfully captained most of the teams he has played in from the time he was first able to strap on a pair of pads. AB de Villiers has almost always been a member of those teams. He has also unquestionably been the best player.

Du Plessis’ bracing sense of reality and steady calm has shone out above his considerable quality as a player in his role as captain of South Africa’s T20 team. De Villiers, the most precocious talent South Africa have yet given cricket, bar none, leads his country’s one-day team by bulletproof example.   

One of Du Plessis or De Villiers, save for a moment of the kind of madness cricket administrators seem duty-bound to stumble into, will be South Africa’s next Test captain.

Which will it be? What will separate them? How will the selectors make this decision?

The Indian Premier League (IPL) does not often have much to do with Test cricket. But, this time, it does. Whether Du Plessis or De Villiers cracks the nod when the decision is made in the next few weeks could depend on how each of them fares as they do their damnedest for the Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore respectively.

De Villiers has the edge by dint of being more established in South Africa’s Test team than Du Plessis. But the score should be evened if Du Plessis scores a pile of runs in the IPL – regardless of whether De Villiers does also. If Du Plessis has a lean time, the debate will be over and De Villiers will be the new Test captain.

Cricket people spend a lot of time and mental effort trying to convince themselves and others that how players perform in one format does not influence events in another. But none of their logic can overcome the truth that human nature is more powerful than any argument.

Like the rest of us, selectors know that what happens in a far-flung T20 circus – even the biggest one of the lot – between teams that do not matter or even exist except for a few weeks of the year should have no bearing on what might happen in a Test series in July, when South Africa tour Sri Lanka, or for the next decade or more.

But it does matter, because a quality cricketer playing well is an irresistible force regardless of the format. The player knows that every time he makes solid contact with the ball. We know it every time that contact sends the ball past the fielders.

De Villiers is a case in point. He was originally appointed captain of South Africa’s one-day and T20 teams not because he had grown into an inspirational leader – Du Plessis had hogged the captaincy spotlight, remember – but because Graeme Smith had relinquished those reins and De Villiers was the best player, by some distance, that South Africa had.

Why not Du Plessis instead? Because he had played just 11 ODIs and no Tests when De Villiers was elevated in June, 2011. That the T20 leadership has since gone to Du Plessis is closely tied to the concern that De Villiers’ game would suffer should he have held onto the job. Performance on the field is what matters, not pontification on man management.

As much as we tell ourselves that T20 and Test cricket are from different planets, we know that means nothing when we are dealing with players of the calibre of Du Plessis and De Villiers.

Try saying the formats are too different to be compared to someone who walks to the crease in a Test having spent the last several weeks smashing the game’s best bowlers to all parts in T20s. Try telling someone who has struggled through a Test series that everything will be OK in the T20s.

A well-played stroke transcends such artificiality. A clutch of them successfully played by one man in the space of an hour or so makes any argument to the contrary look stupid.

For South Africans, then, this IPL is a race within a tournament within a search for the right man to succeed the greatest captain South Africa have ever had, and one of the best the game has yet seen.

Smith is a giant whose shadow will loom over the game in this country for years yet. De Villiers is on course to the same stature. For now, Du Plessis’ place in the pantheon is less certain.

After the IPL, all the parts of that picture will be clearer.