TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IN the 127 years in which SA has been represented on the cricket field, regardless of politics and format, 373 men have bowled a ball in anger at senior international level. Only 17 of them have been left-arm seamers.
Even though SA is not a hotbed of spin, 94 slow bowlers have turned an arm over in the national cause. That’s more than five-and-a-half times as many as the number of left-arm quicks who have played for SA.
Twelve percent of people are cack-handed, but less than 5% of all SA’s bowlers and less than 10% of their fast bowlers have been similarly sinister.
That deficiency was highlighted again at the World T20, where SA were among the few recognised contenders not to turn up with a left-arm fast bowler. Pakistan and New Zealand each had three in their squads.
“T20 is all about variation,” former SA fast bowler Brett Schultz, himself a left-armer, said on Monday.
“Everyone says the yorker is out of the game but it’s not – it’s almost a variation of a variation.”
Schultz said the T20 format had changed one of the tenets of bowling.
“When I was growing up everything was about landing the ball on a tickey*,” he said. “But the tickey’s not the tickey anymore. It’s a moving tickey. Who moved my tickey?”
Not that Schultz had any doubt about the value of a left-armer in a T20 attack.
“Left-armers change the angle. So in the shortest format, if you’ve got a left-armer, you’re changing the angle for 20% of the innings.”
But SA shouldn’t pick bowler purely on which arm they use to deliver the ball. Form uber alles.
Wayne Parnell proved his mercuriality again at Newlands at the weekend by taking match figures of 12/105 for the Cobras against the Dolphins.
But Parnell was last in action for SA in the second T20 against Bangladesh in Dhaka in July.
After 85 international matches of all formats he has taken 110 wickets at an average of 28.23, an economy rate of 5.95 and a strike rate of 28.4 – decent numbers but not special, as evidenced by the fact that he has only two five-wicket hauls to show for all that trouble.
“He’s got everything in his armoury but when the time comes he doesn’t deliver,” Schultz said. “He’s been given so many opportunities but he hasn’t been able to perform.”
Beuran Hendricks’ name is also mentioned in dispatches about left-armers, but injuries have limited him to five T20 internationals since he made his debut in March 2014.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe is another option, but he hasn’t played for SA since March 2014.
Mthokozisi Shezi, who made his one-day international debut in August, is a hope for the future.
Part of the problem with finding players of any description fit for the highest level, Schultz said, was the level below.
“There’s such a big gap between domestic and international cricket these days and that’s a big issue for any player. You’ve virtually got to give guys a lot of chances even if they have little success to see whether they can adapt and close that gap.
“When I played we had very strong domestic cricket and it was still a big gap. The difference now is so much bigger with the weaker domestic set-up.”
You have to wonder whether the gap will have been closed in 127 years’ time, and whether left-arm quicks will still be almost as rare as tickeys.
* Tickey is the nickname of a small coin, worth threepence, used in SA until 1961.