TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
THE sight of Stiaan van Zyl floundering against Ravichandran Ashwin captured the essence of SA’s disastrous test series in India last year.
Ashwin’s eyes lit up every time Van Zyl walked to the wicket and, five times in five innings, the tall off-spinner dismissed the increasingly inept, helplessly hapless left-hander – who became the epitome of SA’s performance in a series they lost 3-0.
So there was no surprise on Tuesday when Van Zyl was named among six batsmen in a contingent of 14 players Cricket SA (CSA) will pack off to a week-long spin bowling camp in Mumbai starting on Saturday.
“The programme has been one of the major features on the CSA high performance skills programme and has been held annually either in India or Sri Lanka,” a release quoted CSA high performance manager Vinnie Barnes as saying.
That made sense. But maybe not Barnes’ assertion that Van Zyl – a past pupil of the initiative – was among the batsmen “who have credited their improvement of batting against spin to the spin camp”.
Then again, Ashwin is no ordinary spinner and SA’s series in India last year was played on extraordinary pitches. Spin claimed 61 of the 69 SA wickets that fell. Fifty-four of them were taken by Ashwin and left-armer Ravindra Jadeja.
And it’s not as if Van Zyl was the only Saffer who struggled against the slow poison.
Faf du Plessis fell to Jadeja four times, to Ashwin twice, and to leg-spinner Amit Mishra once – and those were all the innings the scorer wrote against his name.
AB de Villiers also went, in baseball parlance, 0-for-7 against the spinners. Hashim Amla got out to them six times out of seven and JP Duminy four times out of five.
Not that De Villiers, Amla or Duminy have been sent back tae think again. Instead, they are playing in the Indian Premier League. So was Du Plessis until he broke a finger.
Whatever the challenges presented to batsmen in the world’s highest profile T20 circus, they cannot help them iron out kinks in their techniques or temperaments in any discipline of the game.
If Van Zyl comes back from India a significantly improved player against spin in Asian conditions, that point will be properly made.
Spinners selected for spin camp: Bjorn Fortuin, Simon Harmer, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Tshepo Ntuli, Aaron Phangiso, Dane Piedt, Prenelan Subrayen.
Batsmen selected for spin camp: Temba Bavuma, Reeza Hendricks, Smangaliso Nhlebela, Hector Ngobeni, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas.