TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
THE more interesting news on SA’s tour of India on Monday came not from the players’ dressingroom but from the coaches’ dugout – where Mike Hussey has again been installed as a consultant.
“He’s such a good guy from a coaching point of view,” Faf du Plessis, who played with Hussey for Chennai Super Kings, told a press conference in Delhi. “He’s played a lot of cricket and he’s got a great batting mind.
“So for young batsmen coming into the team, he’s probably the best guy you can learn from: ‘Mr Cricket’.
“He’s done all the right things, he trains hard, he’s a good person and he fits into our team beautifully.”
Even so, cynics will say, Hussey’s involvement with SA at the 2015 World Cup did not have the desired effect. Instead, they lost a white-knuckle semi-final to New Zealand.
But Hussey must have done something right: SA were the only team to score as many as four of the top 10 totals recorded in the tournament, including two of the three innings that topped 400.
It was the tracksuits’ day in the news on Monday, what with Aashish Kapoor, the coach of the India A team who play SA in a Twenty20 tour match in Delhi on Tuesday, sounding like Fikile Mbalula. In reverse …
Explaining that he had just come from a meeting with his players, Kapoor told a press conference, “I told them they are a bunch of matchwinners.”
In January last year sports minister Mbalula hit the headlines – or did he hit the fan? – when he labelled Bafana Bafana a “bunch of losers” for being beaten 3-1 by Nigeria and thereby crashing out of the African Nations Championship.
Kapoor stopped short of hauling out that other hardy, hoary Mbalulaism – “moer hulle” – but SA should be prepared for the Indian side to try to do exactly that.
“Most of these players have won man-of-the-match awards in the IPL (Indian Premier League),” he said. “We’re not bothered about how SA are approaching the match, we are trying to win it.”
Eight of the 12 players in Kapoor’s squad have indeed been named man-of-the-match in IPL games – a total of 16 times between them. Three others have achieved the feat in Champions League T20 matches.
Fair enough. But there was more method to Kapoor’s madness than that: “This can be a life-changing match for them. One terrific performance and they will be noticed by the selectors – they could be knocking on the door of the Indian team.”
That the South Africans will not be bent on shooting the lights out at the Palam ground on Tuesday is suggested by their request to use 13 players in the match, which has been granted.
What kind of pitch can SA expect?
“It’s not been used for the last 10 to 15 days,” Kapoor said. “There’s a lot of grass that will help bind it together. It will probably be low and slow, but it might be better (for batting) in the first innings.”
Tuesday’s game is SA’s only chance under match conditions to shake off rustiness and adjust to the conditions ahead of the first T20 against India in Dharamsala on Friday.