The love triangle that will make a happy marriage between Gibson and SA

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

IT’S not in any coaching manual, in anyone’s kitbag or on the scoreboard, and it wouldn’t register with thermal cameras, super sensitive microphones or ball-tracking gizmos.

But it’s as important to success on the cricket ground as runs, wickets or anything else. Maybe more so.

And, every few years, it’s rebuilt from the ground up.

It’s the relationship between coaches and their players — particularly the senior figures in the team and, at the head of that queue, the captain.

South Africa are in that moment now: Ottis Gibson, Russell Domingo’s replacement, is scheduled to arrive in Mzansi tomorrow.

Then the rebuilding will begin …

“The captain and the coach are trying to get the same message across, and that breeds confidence,” Domingo said. “If varied messages are coming across it can create uncertainty about how to go about things.

“It’s probably the most important relationship in the group — to make sure the two of you stay unified even when things are not going well. So that you always come across in a controlled, calm manner and are always supporting each other when there are tough situations around.”

The bond needs compatibility if it is even to form properly, nevermind grow and strengthen.

“There’s no doubt that the better you get on personally with the coach or the captain the easier it is to buy into his understanding and reasoning, whereas if the mutual respect isn’t there it’s very easy to find fault and criticise and cause conflict,” Domingo said.

Then what?

“The team is more important than the relationship between the coach and the captain. So if there is disharmony you’ve both got to be professional enough for that not to be exposed in front of the team or in a public space.

“Those type of conflicts can be dealt with behind closed doors, and you need to have differences of opinion and different ideas. But that needs to happen privately.”

Happily, then, South Africa’s dressingroom is a more welcoming place than it might have been a few years ago, when figures of the stature of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher roamed the place like the giants they were, dispensing wisdom and justice as they went.

“The core leadership of the team are really good people,” Domingo said. “They all have good value systems, they all try and live their lives in a professional and disciplined ways.”

He rattled off a list of names to bolster his point. Among them was that of AB de Villiers, who has opted not to play in South Africa’s last 15 tests but will be back in whites against India and Australia in the new year.

Du Plessis himself has said the test team didn’t expect to see De Villiers in their midst again, which might make for an awkward reunion.

But a player of De Villiers’ calibre looms as a key part of South Africa’s recovery and rehabilitation in the wake of their poor performance in England this winter.

“To have that type of batsman in the middle order and working with and playing with some of the younger players is a massive benefit,” Domingo said. “If I was the coach I would welcome him back with open arms.”

Gibson no doubt will. How he gets on with De Villiers will be almost as important as his partnership with Du Plessis.

It’s a love triangle with a difference, and it means everything to South Africa’s immediate future.

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Easy like Sunday morning for Negewo at Cape Town Marathon

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

AT 10 minutes and one second past 9am on a perfect spring Sunday, Asefa Negewo slowed to a walk, crossed himself, strolled another hundred metres, crossed himself a couple more times, stopped, turned around to face the way from whence he had come, took off his shoes, and waited for the second man home in the Cape Town Marathon.

The Ethiopian had earned the right to take things easy like Sunday morning by winning the race for the second year running.

Negewo didn’t have long to wait. A minute and five seconds after he crossed the line he welcomed his compatriot, Ketema Negasa, with open, albeit sweaty, arms. Kenya’s Duncan Maiyo was third, a further 20 seconds back.

The winner hit the front after 35 kilometres and never looked back.

“Nobody challenged me and I was able to run at my own pace,” Negewo said.

Last year, he won in a record time of 2:08:41. What slowed him down this time?

“Last year the weather was perfect and the pacemaker was doing a good job and going the right pace,” Negewo said with an interpreter’s help.

“The pacemakers last year went in front and we saw them and followed them. This year we didn’t see them — they were fluctuating, going up and down.

“I think they wanted to win themselves instead of setting the pace.

“The weather also held me back; after 15 or 21 kilometres there was a wind.”

Problems with the pacesetters — Henry Kiplagat and Desmond Mokgobu — weren’t the only organisational challenges the event faced.

Reports from the road said the lead bike in the 10 kilometre race took a wrong turn and guided the field astray, resulting in the route being shortened by approximately 200 metres.

Another Ethiopian, Betelhem Cherenet, fought off the attentions of Namibia’s Helalia Johannes to win the women’s marathon by a scant six seconds.

Johannes led at halfway and, wouldn’t you know it, she was a pacesetter.

The first South African to earn the applause of the small but enthusiastic crowd that had gathered at the finish in Greenpoint was Elroy Gelant, the Olympic 5000 metre runner who had taken on, and conquered, his first marathon to claim fifth place.

Was the race as difficult as he thought it would be?

“Yes,” Gelant gulped through mouthfuls of much-needed air.

Would he run it again?

“Yes.”

Nothing like a positive attitude.

Dion Taljard: from hattrick hero to rape convict

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

FORMER Border fast bowler Dion Taljard has been jailed for 18 years after being convicted on 19 counts of rape.

Taljard, 47, who moved to Britain 17 years ago, was sentenced in Manchester on Wednesday.

He has protested his innocence and a campaign has been launched to try and clear his name.

According to evidence and testimony presented to Minshull Street Crown Court, Taljard attacked a woman, who has not been named, more than 150 times between 2002 and 2012 before she reported him to police in February 2015.

“The majority of the rapes happened on a Monday when he was at the darts and was drunk,” prosecutor Nicholas Clarke told the court.

“He would say ‘I want to have sex with you’, ‘you will comply’. There were innumerable times when they had sex without her consent.”

In sentencing Taljard, judge Maurice Green told him: “You used violence towards this woman over and above even the rapes themselves.

“You manipulated her and sent her threatening text messages to her to get your own way.

“She was afraid of you. On one occasion she went missing and had to have a police helicopter to look for her.

“She described herself as at rock bottom and suicidal. She felt downgraded and intimidated on many, many occasions. “This was because of what you had done to her.”

The news will shock many players who shared dressingrooms with Taljard during his professional career of more than 20 years in South Africa and, at club level, in Britain.

“What is clear is that you are particularly liked by many, many people,” Green said. “You were a professional sportsman and I have read nine testimonials from people who say you are honest and trustworthy person.”

Some of Taljard’s supporters have set up an online petition to fund his appeal.

“The whole case was planned and thought up by his ex-wife who didn’t allow him to see his three children for over two years, then continued on a mission to get him totally out of her life,” according to “Justice for Dion”, which appears to be run by Taljard’s girlfriend, Jacqueline Costello.

“She played the system because she worked in the system and an innocent man will now never get the chance to see his ageing family in South Africa or his beautiful three daughters ever again.

“We need to get justice for this wonderful, caring, hardworking man who would do anything for anyone.”

On Thursday morning, the site said it had raised £2 400 of its target of £30 000.

A commenter on the site, Julie Rachman, wrote: “The truth must come out. I’ve known and was engaged to Dion in South Africa. He’s such a gentleman and would never hurt a soul.”

Taljard claimed, on his Facebook page, that he was innocent: “I have not done any of what I have been accused and found guilty of.”

He played 25 first-class matches for Border between October 1993 and October 1999, taking 60 wickets at 30.93 with two five-wicket hauls.

One of the latter was claimed against Pakistan at Buffalo Park in East London in February 1998, when Taljard took a career-best 6/49 — a haul that featured a hattrick made up of the wickets of Yousuf Youhana, Azhar Mahmood and Saeed Anwar.

Back then, people would applaud Taljard for clocking up victims. No longer.

Coming soon to a club ground near you … Dale Steyn

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

HERE’S hoping the Titans’ team sheet for their first-class match against the Dolphins in Centurion next week was filled out in pencil.

Dale Steyn’s name was among them when the team was picked. Now it’s not.

“I’ve decided not to play,” Steyn said on Thursday.

“Right now I’m bowling fine but I haven’t hit the full workload I’d need to handle four-day cricket or a test, so I decided it was best not to play.”

Steyn has been sidelined since fracturing his shoulder while bowling for South Africa against Australia in a test in Perth in November.

After months of recovery and rehabilitation he had hoped to play in Tuesday’s match to stake a claim for the test series against Bangladesh, which starts in Potchefstroom on September 28.

Instead, he will seek out less taxing opportunities to ease himself back into the international frame.

“Playing the four-day game would have given me a chance for selection in the tests,” Steyn said.

“But I don’t want to put myself or the team in a position where I pull up again. Some shorter cricket might be the better answer for a reintroduction.

“As there’s nothing like that domestically right now I might just play some club stuff in Pretoria or Cape Town.

“It doesn’t really matter to me at what level it is — I just need some cricket and I thought going from nothing to possibly bowling 30-plus overs was a bit of a risk.”

That’s all very well for Steyn and South Africa’s team, but you might stroll out to the middle to have a bat in what you think is a friendly pre-season club game in Pretoria or Cape Town one of these spring weekends and see a startlingly familiar figure …

Could it be him?

Why Gibson got the SA job

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

A fresh approach, experience, and the right man for the job: Ottis Gibson pushed all the right buttons to become South Africa’s new coach.

That’s according to Eric Simons, a member of the panel Cricket South Africa appointed to find a successor to Russell Domingo.

“He’s going to bring a fresh outlook,” Simons said. “He’s got a lot of experience now, and he has coached at a number of levels.

“He’s coached West Indies, where he ended up losing his job. I think in that process as a coach you end up learning a lot.

“We asked a lot of questions about him — what he’s like, what his style is — and we obviously need to marry the relationship not only with him and the team but especially with the captain. I think they are going to fit well together from that perspective.

“He is a good thinker, a good planner of the game, and I think that’s what [captain] Faf [du Plessis] likes; he likes that information and that relationship is very important.”

What separated Gibson from other candidates who were in the running — one of whom was Domingo, who had spent four mostly successful years in the position?

“He has international experience and I think he learnt a lot through that tough period with West Indies.

“As coaches, we hire them when we shouldn’t and fire them when we should hire them.

“In speaking to him and the players around him, he was very honest about what he has learnt and what he has become.”

Was Gibson the panel’s first choice?

“He emerged as the first choice because that’s the one we picked at the end of the day. It was a very good process. Everybody started on an equal footing and then it slowly emerged.

“It was not just a case of picking the person — you also have to marry what’s needed. We are not far away from an ICC [International Cricket Council] tournament [the 2019 World Cup], although it may feel far away.

“He has been there, he has won a tournament [the 2012 World T20], and he has been part of a professional set-up.”

Gibson’s appointment ahead of seasoned South Africans like Lions coach Geoff Toyana raised questions about the quality of the skills available in the country.

Were South Africa’s coaches not good enough to step up to the international stage?

“I’m sure they are but at this stage we thought an international coach with international experience was the right mix at the right time.”

The fact that Gibson was a foreigner — albeit someone with intimate knowledge of South African cricket having played for three provinces in the 1990s — was, for Simons, an advantage.

“Mickey Arthur has worked well in Pakistan, Gary Kirsten did it in India, Trever Bayliss has done well in England.

“Sometimes being able to look at it from a different perspective is refreshing.”

South Africans have spent 25 years waiting for their often highly-regarded team to win a World Cup, a Champions Trophy or, since 2007, a World T20. What did the team need from their coach to take them to that level?

“Someone who has coached at an international level, someone who is going to bring fresh ideas and look at things from a different perspective.”

Simons, respected internationally for his coaching abilities and a survivor of the South Africa job itself, should know of whence he speaks.

We’ll see for ourselves soon enough: Gibson arrives on Monday and his first match in charge is the Potchefstroom test against Bangladesh, which starts on September 28.

Zinta rides like a T20 knight into Stellenbosch … Paarl … wherever …

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE in Paarl

“IT’S very exciting to be here in Stellenbosch,” Preity Zinta said in Paarl on Wednesday.

Her challenges with the local geography aside, the movie-star-cum-T20-franchise-mogul had done her homework.

“I had to write down ‘Stellenbosch’ five times so I didn’t misspell it,” she said.

“The last IPL [Indian Premier League] I learnt to say ‘baie dankie’.”

At which point a reporter from an Afrikaans-language newspaper who was also at a press conference announcing the team formerly known as the Stellenbosch Monarchs — they will be the Stellenbosch Kings in the inaugural edition of the T20 Global League (T20GL) in November and December — shut his notebook.

“I’ve got my story,” he said.

How had the Bollywood actor, who already owns Kings XI Punjab, come to be the knight in shining armour who rode to the rescue of the Stellenbosch franchise when the originally announced owners, Brimstone Investments, pulled out?

“I bumped into (Cricket South Africa chief executive) Haroon (Lorgat) in a hotel (in Dubai) and that was pretty much it,” Zinta said. “It was an overnight decision.”

Brimstone were one of only two South African owners among the eight originally announced, a fact Lorgat described as a “personal disappointment”.

But cricket is moving from a game fuelled by international rivalries to a business built around a handful of T20 leagues spread around the world that feature the same old faces.

“The way the format is and the way leagues are structured, I think in the near future you are going to see league cricket take over in some ways,” Zinta said. “The country sport is there and it’s important, but the league takes over at some point.

“If you look at the viewership patterns and the analytics, people today have shorter attention spans.

“So I do think this is going to grow. Ten years from now we’ll have this conversation. [T20GL] will definitely change the whole landscape of cricket in this country.”

Zinta’s mind was made up even before she bought property in the IPL: “A lot of people said, ‘Why are you getting into it? Cricket is already the No. 1 sport in the country. It’s so saturated. What’s going to be different. There’s no growth’.

“And I said, ‘It’s No. 1 but I don’t watch it’. Which means the women don’t watch it, the families don’t watch it. Just the hardcore cricket fan watches it.”

She sketched what will be a dystopian nightmare for anyone who thinks of cricket as merely an aspect of a life lived well.

“Part of our campaign when we were building the IPL brand was that we didn’t want the remote control to be shared in the house,” Zinta said.

“We don’t want the mother to say, ‘Hey — I want to see my show’. We don’t want the grandfather to say, ‘Put on the cricket’. We don’t want somebody else to say, ‘I want to watch the news’.”

But while the T20GL has Zinta, lights and action, it still doesn’t have cameras. Less than two months before the first ball is scheduled to be bowled, the broadcaster has yet to be named.

“In South Africa we’re in the situation where there’s one pretty strong broadcaster — you can guess as good as I can who we’re talking to,” Lorgat said when asked if the broadcaster would be SuperSport.

“I could have sold these broadcast rights 12 months ago, and I can tell you what Preity has done in the last week has pumped up what we’re expecting ourselves.

“So we’re in no rush to go and do something and then say we shouldn’t have.”

With that, Zinta’s already neon eyes shone still more brightly as she asked: “So do I get any brownie points?”

She was, like she said, very excited. In Stellenbosch … Paarl … Wherever …

Du Plessis the right choice as captain, but Pakistan? Really?

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

THIS time six years ago Faf du Plessis had his nose pressed to the shop window of international cricket, desperate to get in and stay in. Now he owns the shop.

As we speak Du Plessis is in Lahore captaining a World XI in three T20s against Pakistan. On Monday he was named South Africa’s ODI captain, which makes him that rarity in the modern game: at the helm of every international team for which he plays.

You could argue about the wisdom of propping up the myth of normality in a deeply abnormal society by sending a cricket team to a place like Pakistan — which remains unsafe for many who are there, the locals in particular.

You could argue that the only reason those players were willing to go to Pakistan is that they will, apparently, earn US$100 000 each for their trouble — or US$33 333.33 a match, US$5 000 an innings and US$833.33 an over. Hope it’s worth it.

You could argue that no arguments over the rights and wrongs of mere sport are raised when terrorism rips into other, supposedly safer countries while teams are touring — as happened to South Africa in London in July.

You could argue that people as passionate for cricket as Pakistanis deserve to see the side they idolise play at home, which before Monday they had done only five times since a terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 — and nevermind how many people are bombed to smithereens while the game, as it must, goes on.

You could argue that whether or not international cricket is being played in Pakistan makes not a jot of difference to the bigger picture.

But you couldn’t argue that Du Plessis doesn’t deserve the credit he is earning as a leader. Actually, you could. But you’d lose.

At a press conference in Lahore, Du Plessis himself made a case for why he was in Pakistan.

“It’s a huge honour to be here as it’s not often when you are playing cricket in a cause which is much bigger than the game,” Du Plessis said.

“As a professional, numerous factors played their part. Money was one of them but what really convinced me was that as a sportsman you want to leave your footprint on the game.”

He talks a good game, does Du Plessis. And, these days, he has to: it’s been 21 completed innings since he last scored a century for South Africa in any format.

But players like him are measured differently. South Africa, having lost their way while Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers were at the helm, are lucky to have Du Plessis; a born captain and a man who understands when his hour has cometh.

His aura lost some of its lustre amid South Africa’s repeated failures in England this winter, but there is still no better captain anywhere in the game.

This time six years ago the sum total of Du Plessis’ international experience was 10 ODIs in which he passed 50 twice and was part of the problem in another World Cup meltdown on a mad night in Dhaka.

Now, at 33, he is central to South Africa’s present and future, a key man every which way you look at him.

And he deserves no less. There is a calmness in his smile and a hardness in his eye that wins trust unfailingly, and what he does on the field is proved correct significantly more often than not.

But Pakistan? Really?