Can’t see the cricketers for the consultants

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Auckland

IT isn’t often Gary Kirsten takes a backward step on a cricket ground. He did on Sunday, courtesy of David Miller.

Lusty left-hander Miller was taking throwdowns in the nets towards the end of a marathon SA training session at Eden Park’s No. 2 ground. The grand stadium that is the venue for Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final between SA and New Zealand loomed behind Miller’s back as he took up his stance. Opposite him, light Sunday morning traffic burbled down Sandringham Road.

The sun shone. The breeze blew. All was right with the world – at least, it was except in the nanoseconds when Miller’s bat made brutal contact with the ball, sending it booming into the clean, crisp air.

Charl Langeveldt chucked full tosses that reached the crease at around knee height and outside off-stump. Kirsten pitched it up on the stumps. Both, it seemed, were trying to simulate yorkers gone wrong.

Miller was in six-hitting mode, drilling every offering as hard, far and straight as he could. All around, netting cowered and bulged.

Then Kirsten shuffled in and threw, and Miller made contact solid and flat enough to send the ball screaming back on a trajectory that had Kirsten flinching evasively.

The chastened ball rocketed into the roof of the net, missing Kirsten and everything else. The message had been delivered loud and clear: Miller gaan hulle moer.

There was no apology from the batsman, but minutes after that when he sat down to talk to the press an hour later than scheduled – an indication not of tardiness but of how determined SA are to win on Tuesday – Miller said, “Sorry, guys.”

Hey, no problem fella. Besides, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if that bazooka of yours had taken out Kirsten. Would mercenary Mike Hussey have stepped into the breach? Or maybe mad Mike Horn? They were, after all, both in attendance.

Mark O’Donnell, now the Auckland under-19 coach, but eons ago the tracksuit with whom the buck stopped at Eastern Province and Gauteng, was also hanging about. But only, it seemed, to have a fat chat with Adrian Birrell.

Was it consultants’ day out? Or was it just that everything about SA has taken a great leap of intensity forward since they beat Sri Lanka in their quarter-final in Sydney on Wednesday?

Sunday’s training session was somehow bigger. More time was put in, more media milled about, more spectators were hovering for an autograph – or a selfie, as Morne Morkel discovered when he thought he was minding his own business walking back from the nets to the dressingroom and found himself smiling sweetly for a photograph with a proud father and a bonny baby.

“It’s the first time I’m doing press, so that’s pretty cool,” Miller said.

“Because the tournament has been in Australia and New Zealand it’s been quite scattered and I haven’t felt like it’s been all together. It’s been quite nice in that sense. But it’s all coming down to the crunch moment now, so soon there will be a lot more pressure put on this game.”

And on the coaches. Stay out of trouble, for goodness sake.

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