The Kallis conundrum

Jacques Kallis turning his arm over at ODI level is an increasingly rare, if not extinct, sight.

The ICC Champions Trophy (and thankfully the last ever) will be held in England in June this year.

While it is a tournament that the world cricket calender never needed, it still has enough credibility for the big cricketing nations to take it seriously. 

South Africa would be hoping to win their first piece of ICC silverware since the 90s (after triumphing at the 1998 edition). While the South African squad we saw in action against Pakistan over the summer looked to be the line-up that would do battle in England, two names were missing that will probably be in the team sheet. 

The first is JP Duminy, who really started to look like he had cemented his place in both the Test and ODI sides. Following his injury in Australia last year that has ruled him out for quite some time, his return to fitness is important for the balance of the team, given his off spin bowling is of a very useful standard.

The major question mark remaining is that of Jacques Kallis. No longer available for bilateral one day series, Proteas coach Gary Kirsten is reportedly doing his best to convince Kallis to return for the tournament.

There is a notion doing the rounds in the republic that Kallis should not be drafted straight into the starting XI given his relative lack of action at ODI level. While it certainly would have implications on his form, it is a no-brainer to bring Kallis in given the outstanding balance he brings to any side he plays for, plus his experience.

He bats at three, is a reliable close in fielder and can carry 10 over if need be with the ball. As his career winds down, the Proteas have rightfully prioritised Tests as the arena where Kallis’ efforts will be focused. However, if they can bring him in for the Champions Trophy, South Africa will be the better for it.

It will likely serve as King Kallis’ last ODI appearance given that the next World Cup is two years away and by then he would be verging on the same age as Sachin Tendulkar, who it should be said, should have retired after India won the 2011 World Cup. The Little Master has decided to carry on, to the detriment of his reputation and his legacy.

Kallis on the other hand has appeared to get better with age, and with the generation of South African batsmen that followed him, in the form of AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Graeme Smith and Duminy, having taken up the scoring reigns and removed the burden of carrying the team as he did in the last 90s and early 2000s, Kallis has gone on to become a better batsman staggeringly as he has gotten older. He has triumphed in his career dual with peer Ricky Ponting, and along with Shiv Chanderpaul and Tendulkar, is the last player to have made his debut in the 1990s. The man represents an epoch in the sport.  

Jacques Kallis playing for South Africa in any format is a massive advantage the Proteas should take advantage of, before the great man leaves the field for good. If he is in the team, the Proteas should be seen as the favourites given how conditions in England will suit South Africa better than their Asian. Australasian and West Indian couter parts. England? They might be distracted by the upcoming Ashes battle. 

Selectors giving Tsolekile raw deal

Will Tsolekile be given a chance during South Africa’s home summer?

Race, 18 years after apartheid officially ended in South Africa, still holds an essential place within the discourse of this country. If you do not live in South Africa and suggest otherwise, you are being ignorant of where race is in the current South African story.

Hence why, whenever race, politics and sport are mixed, many sports lovers get rather prickly, saying politics (read race) and sport must not mix.

Being a former politics student myself, I am of the view that politics is inseparable from day-to-day life, and by extension, sport. In a world of interconnectedness, to suggest that politics and sport are separate entities that co-exist beyond each other is naive.

This perhaps helps put the current plight of Proteas “reserve” wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile in perspective. When Mark Boucher’s career was ended through a freak injury in his first tour match on the Proteas tour of England this year (2012), many names were thrown about as to who might replace Boucher in the Test line-up. 

Many media pundits thought Dane Vilas, from the Cape Cobras (formerly Western Province, based in Cape Town) would get the nod. However, it was Tsolekile who convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson appeared to anoint as the next man to wear the gloves for South Africa.

While Tsolekile has said since that he didn’t expect to play in England or Australia, he was told that he would likely wear the gloves against New Zealand. However, he was dropped all together from the Test squad, and told that his batting wasn’t good enough to strand up to the rigours of a modern Test no.7, which he didn’t agree with. Confusing isn’t it?

Tsolekile has complained that while Proteas head coach Gary Kirsten has been clear with him, the message that he has been receiving from the selectors has been mixed.

While South Africa’s batting line-up is probably in better shape fielding seven specialist batsman, the worst thing that could have happened for Tsolekile was AB de Villiers’ scoring 169 against Australia at Perth, expunging the argument that he couldn’t bat and hold the gloves at the same time.

I still believe De Villiers would be more valuable without the gloves, which brings me back to race. With Makhaya Ntini making comments recently that Tsolekile would’ve played for the Proteas if he was white, which Tsolekile admirable distanced himself from, perhaps Ntini is right. There is an onus on black sportsman, more of a unseen veneer than an obvious deduction, that they have to prove more to find themselves worthy in the still white-dominated sports of cricket and rugby in South Africa.

While I am not suggesting that Tsolekile was simply taken on tour to score political points, his poor treatment by the Proteas selectors begs the question Ntini asked: would he have played if he wasn’t black?

It’s unfair to tell Tsolekile that he wasn’t of Test standard after previously indicating that he was the next man in line. Why pick him then, if he won’t even be given a chance?

The selectors, it could be interpreted, have deceived Tsolekile to a certain degree, even going as far as giving him a national contract, while paradoxically not even letting his boots grace an international cricket field.

Thami Tsolekile has been given a raw deal.

Atlas Smith carries his team’s hopes…again

Graeme Smith’s 26th Test hundred once again gave South Africa hope after a terrible start to the second Test in Adelaide

Considering how badly South Africa were looking after Day 1, Day 2 ended with skipper Graeme Smith once again showing there was still plenty of room to carry the hopes of a nation after another nerveless hundred (111*) away from home.

If the statistics are to be believed, now that Smith has notched up his 26th Test century, South Africa will not lose. When Graeme Smith has scored a century, South Africa have not lost the game, and won the majority of them (17 ).

On a pitch so lifeless, making a graveyard look like a club with pumping house music, Smith went about his business knowing that with Jacques Kallis only coming in at number seven due to injury, it was up to him to ensure his side made it to the end of Day 2 with minimal fuss.

He had a couple of close encounters, with James Pattinson throwing his toys once again after Smith got his dismissal via an edge reversed, but all in all South Africa while still deep in the abyss, can see the light above.

217/2 would sound a lot better at 217/0 but due to Alviro Petersen’s careless and frankly unacceptable dismissal (how at international level can you be that naive and not ground your bat?), and Hashim Amla yorking himself against the part time spin of David Warner, Jacques Rudolph now has a chance to save his Test career with a defining knock where he can bat all day.

Imran Tahir’s Test career hang’s on a knife edge, following his dismal display of 0/180 in 23 overs at 7.82 runs an over. What is even more galling is part timer Faf du Plessis looked the better of the two leggies, registering seven over for 34.

Hats off to Michael Clarke for another outstanding knock (230), and to David Warner and Michael Hussey once again making South Africa pay with centuries of their own. The Proteas managed to haul themselves back by taking the last five Australian wickets in the morning session, but many will ask whether South Africa prepared hard-enough after their much publicised break between Test matches, where the squad went their separate ways.

However, I don’t think Gary Kirsten and the break is to blame, but rather the Australians entering the game the more motivated of the two sides, and following another disruption with Vernon Philander being unable to play on the morning of the match, plus Tahir who is suffering a confidence crisis (along with fellow bowling cohort Rory Kleinveldt), Kirsten and co will have much thinking to do before the last Test.

I doubt you will see Tahir play, with the calmer Robin Petersen given the spin duties.

For now however, if Smith and South Africa can continue their vigil, the Proteas still have a good chance of drawing this match and going to Perth for the third and final Test at 0-0 all, even though they will admit to themselves that Australia have had their number thus far.

Word to the groundsman, who should have done better than produce a tar road for a Test pitch, late spin or not.

Short balls to Clarke?

 

Michael Clarke…on a bad day

I’ve read talk about South Africa intending on sending down many a chin-warmer against Michael Clarke, the Australian skipper, following his fine 259* not out against the Proteas at the Gabba.

Something tells me that isn’t quite going to happen, more of a bluff perhaps? The best way to get Michael Clarke, is the same way you get the very best out, and he is now one of those. Put the ball into the channel, bowl a good length and keep probing away, ball after ball after ball. Fuller rather than shorter.

Yes, Clarke will receive some bouncers chin-music, there can be no doubt about that. However, to think that in his current form that they will pepper him with short balls all day, seems too blunt an approach for Gary Kirsten, Graeme Smith and the bowling attack in general. Yes, the Gabba was a bad day at the office, actually three, but South Africa have not become number through bowling the same way series by series.

There is a reason the Proteas haven’t lost an away series since 2006 especially. It’s because Smith’s attack has learned and more importantly learned to adapt to the situation around them.

The ball that will get Michael Clarke out will be fullish, outside or on off stump. Why would this happen? Because that’s where good bowlers get out good batsman.

On a separate note, it feels Ricky Ponting is only two bad scores away from being dropped? Of those batsman who made their debut in the 90s, Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar (89 for him), Mahela Jayawardene, and Jacques Kallis are left. While Kallis and Jayawardene have been more consistent, Ponting and especially Tendulkar have looked vulnerable. This could be Ricky Ponting’s last series if we’re not watching.