Tahir, IPL a perfect match

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

PART of Imran Tahir’s strictly Bollywood biography is that he came to SA to wed a woman and, as a subplot, ended up playing international cricket. But it is at the Indian Premier League (IPL) that he has found his perfect match.

To see Tahir tear towards the boundary with arms outstretched, eyes aflame and throat wide open each time he takes a wicket for Delhi Daredevils – and to see the crowd and the cheerleaders and the fireworks follow his irrisistable lead – is to see a man immersed in his element.

Which only adds to the strangeness of Tahir failing for six years to find an IPL franchise that would have him. Then, last year, Delhi took the plunge and Tahir took nine wickets at an average of 19. The Daredevils lost all six of the matches Tahir played but so what – they lost 12 of their 14 games and finished last.

This year, under JP Duminy’s captaincy, Delhi have won three out of seven and Tahir’s 13 scalps have made him the tournament’s leading wicket-taker going into Tuesday’s match.

Thirteen mad dashes into the outfield in seven games is a lot even by IPL standards of excess; enough for Tahir to snatch the media spotlight.

“I don’t do it to impress people – this is me,” he told the Indian Express with a hearty thump of his chest. “This hunger has built up for years and years. It has to come out. I might get a heart attack if I keep it all bottled up. I’d rather give the batsman a heart attack.

“I have always believed in having a good time. I don’t want teams thinking, ‘Oh dear, another five long months with ‘Immy’’. You give happiness and you get it back.”

So far Tahir is the standout South African at the 2015, in which Morne Morkel is sixth among the wicket-takers with Duminy and David Wiese 15th and 16th with seven each and Chris Morris on five.

Dale Steyn is still in the doldrums that limited his contribution to SA’s World Cup cause to 11 wickets in eight matches. Steyn has missed four of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s seven games and has claimed just three wickets in his 11 overs.

But Steyn has done more than one of SA’s best bowlers at the World Cup: Kyle Abbott has yet to emerge from Chennai Super Kings’ dugout.

SA batsmen are fewer and further between on the achievers’ lists. Duminy has scored two half-centuries and is eighth among the runscorers. AB de Villiers has been unable to repeat his World Cup heroics, where he scored a century and three half-centuries in seven innings and averaged 96.40. The story of his IPL is 176 runs in five innings with a best effort of 47 not out.

What with the IPL in full swing prominent SA players are thin on the ground on the English county scene, where Vernon Philander has taken three wickets in as many first-class innings for Nottinghamshire. Hashim Amla is due in England next week for a short stint with Derbyshire and Abbott is set to join Middlesex after the IPL.

Nonetheless there has been a significant SA presence at the batting crease in first-class cricket in England this season. Of the 44 centuries scored six belong to South Africans who are unavailable for national selection here – Keaton Jennings, Johann Myburgh, twice, Alviro Petersen, Jacques Rudolph and Ashwell Prince.

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CSA shrinks gap CLT20 would leave

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

“I wish one day I could tell Cricket SA (CSA), ‘I don’t need your money’,” Cobras chief executive Nabeal Dien said last week.

Fat chance of that happening anytime soon, especially if the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s working committee did what was widely expected at their meeting on Sunday and disbanded the Champions League T20 (CLT20).

The tournament puts more than R300-million in CSA’s coffers annually. But the broadcasters are losing around US$100-million a year as interest dwindles in what could have been the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) big brother but has instead become its poor cousin.

Each of SA’s six franchises benefit from the CLT20 cash to the tune of R350 000 a year. The franchises that fill the two berths reserved for SA teams at the tournament earn another R2.4-million. Each time an IPL side decide to hang on to a player who would otherwise turn out for his SA outfit the latter bank R1.8-million.

No-one wants to lose a semi-final but CLT20 teams who do will have six million reasons to feel better – that’s how many Rand they will make for reaching the final four.

Losing the final is worth almost R16-million. The Warriors and the Lions both know that feeling having fallen at the last hurdle in 2010 and 2012. Win the thing and you take home R30.45-million.

Any which way you spin it the CLT20 means money to SA’s teams and its loss would be keenly felt, and that’s besides the showcase the event is for SA players hoping to land contracts to play in the IPL.

Dien said the Cobras would be worse off by between R1-million and R1.5-million a year. The Titans would see a negative swing of around R4-million in their budget.

The Warriors did not return calls asking about their financial situation should the tournament be scrapped. But as one of SA’s less affluent franchises they would not be best pleased.

Another franchise chief executive, who declined to be named, painted a bleak picture of the domestic game’s future: “I knock on a lot of doors looking for sponsorship and not a lot of them are answered. I’ve seen sports marketing executives holding their heads in their hands because they don’t know what to do.”

But there could yet be some light at the end of what seems a dark tunnel, courtesy of CSA. What their chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, has termed a “re-engineering” exercise, begun soon after he started his tenure in 2013, is nearing completion.

This has consolidated CSA to the size of an organisation more in touch with its reality as one of the seven test-playing countries who have been frozen out of the big three comprised of India, England and Australia.

“We measure performance much more acutely,” Lorgat said this week. “We’ve got incentives in place and sanctions for those who don’t meet the requirements.”

He said all 12 of CSA’s provincial affiliates had adopted a new funding model geared towards ensuring they break even. So far, so good – for CSA at least.

“We were projecting a loss of R106-million (for this financial year),” Lorgat said. “We’ve managed through commercial programmes, the re-engineering, and fortuitous gains from the exchange rate to have turned a profit in excess of R100-million, and that’s something we can be proud of.”

Dien may yet see his wish come true but for now it’s business as usual in SA cricket.

‘No regrets’ as Hudson quits suits for pinstripes

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

THE Vernon Philander debacle had nothing to do with Andrew Hudson’s decision to quit as SA’s selection convenor. Despite two major transformation scandals he leaves without regrets. And his replacement should know their way around international cricket – which rules out the rest of the current panel.

As a player the most controversial thing about Hudson was a cover drive more arresting to the onlooker than Graeme Pollock’s. The same cannot be said of his imminent departure from cricket’s suits and return to banker’s pinstripes.

Why the dignity of an out-of-form, out-of-sorts Philander was sacrificed by picking him for the World Cup semi-final last month remains a smouldering secret. Several sources have told Sunday Times the decision was ordered on transformation grounds, a charge Cricket SA have squirmed out of by admitting chief executive Haroon Lorgat was “consulted” on the team’s composition.

Asked what role the scandal played in his resignation Hudson said, “None at all. Even before the World Cup I thought five years was enough. This is not a bitterness thing.”

So what really happened with Philander?

“I’m not prepared to re-open that situation. It’s not the time to do that and it’s not my place. What’s happened has happened. We didn’t win the World Cup so let’s try win the next one.”

But he was prepared to say: “It’s also important to win the trust of the players – that they know selection is a proper process. If the players get a sense that there are other agendas at play it’s not healthy.”

SA’s teams averaged more than four players of colour during Hudson’s tenure. Even so one side of the transformation divide will remember him for the Philander fandango and, in December, 2012, leading Thami Tsolekile to believe he would play in the upcoming test series against New Zealand. Instead AB de Villiers was behind the stumps.

But Hudson said, “I don’t have any regrets. Everything was done with a lot of thought and input from stakeholders. Maybe if I had done a few things differently … there’s always room for improvement.”

He had clear views on who should succeed him: “They should have some sort of international experience or have been close to the international scene.”

Shafiek Abrahams, Hussein Manack and Linda Zondi are the other selectors. The sum total of their international experience is Abrahams’ sole one-day international.

Aye, aye, captain Duminy

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

AS the captain of a team who had conceded 19 runs off the over just bowled JP Duminy might have been rattled as he pondered who should be entrusted with sending down the last six balls of the innings.

Rattled? Like hell. Duminy had planned well enough to be able to call on his entire attack: none of them had bowled four overs. He tossed the ball to Imran Tahir, who took two wickets and went for three runs to limit Kings XI Punjab’s total to 165/7. Duminy’s Delhi Daredevils replied with 169/5 to win with a ball to spare.

And that after Delhi had gone down to Chennai Super Kings by a solitary run and to Rajasthan Royals off the last ball of the match to stretch their losing streak – which started in last year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) – to a record-equalling 11 matches.

For Duminy to have several options available to him as he contemplated that 20th over was one thing. For him to make the right choice, given the bigger and small pictures, was distinctly another.

Three times in Delhi’s five matches at least four bowlers have had overs to spare at the end of their opponents’ innings. The closest Duminy has come to running out of ideas was against Rajasthan Royals, when four of the six bowlers he used had reached their quota. And that was without having bowled himself in the innings.

Three days after Delhi broke their duck against Punjab they got home by four runs against Sunrisers Hyderabad. This time Duminy got the job done himself, scoring 54 and taking 4/17 – the best figures in this year’s tournament going into Wednesday’s games.

“We know we made a few errors but we found a way to get the two points,” Duminy said with trademark modesty.

Delhi have fielded like daredevils indeed and they have celebrated their successes like little boys let loose on the playground, which tells its own story about how well Duminy has been received as their leader.

All this, mind, from one of the quieter players in SA’s dressingroom whose potential as a captain was first floated in the media last season. Then Faf du Plessis was rested for three T20s in Australia in November and Duminy stepped in as skipper. The Aussies won the series 2-1 but Duminy added a string to his bow.

Having turned 31 last Tuesday he does not have that many years left at the top. But should SA look to make use  of Duminy’s suddenly prominent leadership skills?

“He’s been very impressive with Delhi but SA have three captains already and they’ve all done pretty well,” Mike Procter, who as convenor of selectors gave Duminy his break in test cricket, said on Wednesday.

“I didn’t think three captains would work but they have gelled really well. I guess three good cricketing heads are better than one.”

Delhi won’t mind. Despite Duminy’s performance they slipped to their third loss in five games against Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday. But they have the chance to balance the books against Mumbai Indians on Thursday.

Questions remain over Philander fitness for World Cup semi

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

VERNON Philander, the man at the centre of the scandal over the selection of the SA team for the World Cup semi-final last month, arrived in good working order for his stint with Nottinghamshire, the county says.

At least, Notts were willing to take Cricket SA’s (CSA) word for it. “He was fully fit, and he was signed off as fully fit by the SA team management,” Nottinghamshire director of cricket Mick Newell told Times Media. “We’ve got no restrictions on him.”

But, between the semi-final and his first game for Notts, Philander had 18 days to recover from the hamstring injury that had reduced his workload at the World Cup from a possible 80 to 28.3 overs.

Several sources have told Times Media that Philander’s selection in SA’s team for the semi-final was forced on the team on transformation grounds by the board of Cricket SA (CSA).

CSA have denied interference but have admitted that their chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, was “consulted” over the make-up of the team and that he “impressed upon (selection convenor Andrew Hudson and SA coach Russell Domingo) the need to properly consider the best XI bearing in mind the transformation guidelines (to pick at least four black players in the team)”.

The suits want the story to go away but it won’t. Philander’s fitness has been an important part of the saga, especially considering he left the field after bowling his eight overs in the semi-final. Despite that CSA have insisted he was declared fit for the match.

On the 16th day after the semi-final, April 9, an interview with Philander was published in the Nottingham Post. “I’ve done all the rehab to get to where I am today so, yes, I’m ready to go again,” he was quoted as saying.

That says he didn’t arrive at Trent Bridge in optimum condition. Philander did not respond to messages asking if he was fit to play in the World Cup semi-final.

But he put his money where his mouth is in his first match for Notts, against Middlesex at Lord’s starting on April 12, by taking the new ball in both innings and bowling 37.5 overs. He took 1/80 and batted for 81 minutes.

Philander is currently playing in the second of the six championship matches he has been contracted for, this time against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge. By tea yesterday, he had bowled 26 overs in Yorkshire’s first innings and taken 2/51.

“He’s been bowling well and he’s been very helpful in the dressingroom,” Newell said.

Philander will also play three T20 games for the county. He will soon have a compatriot’s company in England what with Derbyshire announcing on Tuesday that Hashim Amla had been signed to play two championship and three T20 matches.

CLT20 scrapping would help cricket balance, not bank balance

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

A revenue stream worth more than R300-million a year to SA cricket could dry up at a meeting in India on Sunday.

That’s when the working committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will decide whether to scrap the Champions League T20 (CLT20).

Future editions of the tournament are in danger of being cancelled because of shrinking crowds, spiralling television ratings and losses of around US$100-million a year incurred by broadcasters.

The franchises who fill the two berths reserved for SA sides earn R2.4-million each. As shareholders in the tournament, Cricket SA (CSA) make around R302-million annually.

Each time one of the Indian Premier League (IPL) sides involved in the CLT20 decide to hang onto a player who would otherwise turn out for his SA franchise, that franchise is compensated to the tune of R1.8-million.

Cricket Australia bank the same amount as CSA while the major shareholders, the BCCI, claim about twice as much. And it is the powerful BCCI, supported by the broadcasters, who are bent on hitting the CLT20 for six.

The IPL is the jewel in the BCCI’s crown and the CLT20 has come to be seen as stealing some of the former’s shine. It is played just two months after the IPL, in itself a two-month slog of matches almost daily, and involves several of the same players and teams.

In cricket terms the CLT20, a tournament that has become as unloved as it was always unreal, would not be mourned. But the likely impending loss of so much money is a looming disaster in a SA cricket economy in which franchises would struggle to stay afloat without the funding they receive from sources like CSA and the CLT20.

“It’s going to affect everybody – maybe not in the short term because there are still outstanding commitments to be fulfilled but certainly in the long term,” a senior franchise official, who declined to be named, said on Monday.

But he did not think the loss of the tournament, which featured the SA teams that reached the final of the franchise competition, was all negative.

“My big concern was that our own T20 tournament was becoming the most important competition because of the money it involved. That was happening to the detriment of the other competitions. Maybe, if the CLT20 is shelved, we will see the balance return to normal.”

The cricket balance that is. Not the bank balance.

Lorgat admits he was ‘consulted’ over World Cup semi XI

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

CRICKET SA (CSA) admitted on Saturday night that chief executive Haroon Lorgat had been “consulted” about the composition of the SA team who played in the World Cup semi-final last month.

The admission follows CSA officials’ denials of interference in selection for the match, which were first reported by Times Media.

A statement said a review panel comprising three of CSA’s own independent directors had investigated claims that the board or sports minister Fikile Mbalula had insisted that the team include a fourth player of colour.

“The convenor (of selectors, Andrew Hudson) and coach (Russell Domingo) had consulted Lorgat who had impressed upon them the need to properly consider the best XI bearing in mind the transformation guidelines,” a CSA statement said.

According to multiple sources, SA were forced to change the side they wanted – the same team who had thrashed Sri Lanka in the quarter-final. They opted to include Vernon Philander, who was coming back from injury and consequently short of match practice, at the expense of Kyle Abbott, their best bowler in the tournament in terms of average, economy rate and strike rate.

The close-fought match in Auckland on March 24 was decided with the penultimate delivery, which New Zealand’s Grant Elliott smashed for six to stop SA from reaching the World Cup final for what would have been the first time.

But, not for the first time, CSA disputed much of that sequence of events.

“Having successfully undergone a fitness test Philander was declared fit and available for selection by the medical team,” the statement said. “Direct inquiry with him by the coach confirmed his readiness to play.

“Hudson, Domingo and Lorgat confirmed they had received, individually or collectively, no instructions or no interference from anyone, specifically not from the minister of sport or from members of the CSA board.

“Domingo confirmed that he never received an SMS from Lorgat as alleged (in media reports) and Lorgat in turn confirmed that he had never sent an SMS to Domingo.”

The statement said “Hudson and Domingo confirmed, on behalf of the selection panel” their awareness of “transformation guidelines which require the panel to consider, on merit, the selection of at least four players of colour in the starting XI”.

CSA president Chris Nenzani called the reports of interference “unfounded and mischievous”, and the statement said the board would not comment further on the issue.

Earlier on Saturday, CSA tried to quell the fire started by team consultant Mike Horn, who told reporters in Shanghai this week, “What actually happened was the team (originally selected for the semi-final) was the team that played against Sri Lanka (in the quarter-final).”

In a letter that CSA said Horn had written to them, the explorer contradicted himself.

“I confirm what I said in the sound bytes and the written articles but the way it was written was not my sense of what had happened but the interpretation of someone else,” CSA said Horn wrote.