SA risks de­cline ‘like Windies’

Lesotho Times - - News -

CAPE TOWN — Michael Hold­ing has a unique van­tage-point. He was a mem­ber of the West Indies cricket team that be­came the world Test cham­pi­ons in the 1980s, and is now a tele­vi­sion com­men­ta­tor on the cur­rent se­ries which has seen Eng­land topple South Africa from their po­si­tion as No1-ranked Test team.

At the Wan­der­ers last Satur­day, Hold­ing ad­mired Stu­art Broad’s six for 17. “It was a mag­nif­i­cent spell of bowl­ing,” said the Rolls Royce of fast bowlers. “On that sur­face you needed con­trol and con­sis­tency, and when you have some­one of that height in to­tal con­trol, it’s dif­fi­cult to make any runs.

“He [Broad] just mas­tered the con­di­tions and didn’t ex­per­i­ment too much,” Hold­ing added. “In Eng­land you can get away with bad de­liv­er­ies, but here they would get put away – and he didn’t bowl any.”

Hold­ing has also been taken with the 20-year-old clock­ing more than 90 mile-per­hour for South Africa, Kag­iso Rabada. “He looks so easy, he looks smooth, he doesn’t look as though he’s ex­pend­ing any en­ergy,” Hold­ing al­most purred.

When com­par­ing the West Indies’ de­cline from No1 to South Africa’s fall, Hold­ing has some valu­able in­sights into the sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences. He speaks his mind too, never def­er­en­tial to the game’s politi­cians, or any other kind.

“The first thing I iden­tify is that the West Indies lost a lot of their great play­ers in that early to mid-1990s pe­riod. South Africa is in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion,” Hold­ing said. For Viv Richards, Mal­colm Mar­shall, Des­mond Haynes and Jeff Du­jon then, read Graeme Smith, Jac­ques Kal­lis, Shaun Pol­lock and Mark Boucher.

“West Indies had no for­ward plan­ning, no suc­ces­sion plan, and I’m not too sure they [South Africa] do. What I’m see­ing with this South Africa team, it seems as though they’re do­ing a lot of patch­work. Hav­ing an opener (Sti­aan van Zyl) who is not re­ally an opener - in­stead of say­ing OK, we have to plan for down the road. If you want to re­build a team you can’t do patch­work, and the West Indies did a lot of that.”

De­vel­op­ing sat­is­fac­tory suc­ces­sors for great play­ers, who can never be fully re­placed, de­pends on sen­si­ble ad­min­is­tra­tion and plenty of in­vest­ment. “You’ve got to have a lot of A tours,” said Hold­ing, “and do as Eng­land does – have two teams on tour, the Test team and an A team in the same coun­try, so there’s some over­lap­ping and peo­ple are learn­ing from each other. It mustn’t be a cul­ture shock when you step into the Test arena, and I haven’t seen the West Indies do any­thing like that.”

“What did not af­fect the West Indies, but I think is go­ing to af­fect South Africa, is the T20 cricket you have around the world. There are so many whis­pers about AB de Vil­liers re­tir­ing – and Dale Steyn too, but as a fast bowler, he’s get­ting close to the end of his ca­reer any­way, and when you see a fast bowler re­tire a year or two be­fore he’s to­tally done, that’s not re­ally a se­ri­ous prob­lem. But when a bats­man re­tires five or six years be­fore, that is a big­ger prob­lem, and I think that’s go­ing to af­fect this team.

“You heard AB de Vil­liers talk­ing about the work­load. There’s plenty more cricket be­ing played to­day than in years gone by but you know he’s not go­ing to give up the In­dian Premier League.

“So it’s go­ing to be the South African Test team that will suf­fer in that re­gard. We didn’t have that prob­lem in the mid-90s, but we’re suf­fer­ing that prob­lem now.”

When the West Indies were play­ing their Test se­ries in Aus­tralia, they seemed to have more play­ers in the Big Bash – more good play­ers at any rate.

“We can’t af­ford to sit down and wait in the Caribbean for crick­eters to turn up, be­cause a lot of them have been turned off any­way. When you watch the cur­rent West Indies team, who wants to as­pire to be what they are? And South Africa could be head­ing in that di­rec­tion.”

Hold­ing then looks at the strength of schools cricket in South Africa, and the schol­ar­ships which are given to promis­ing boys like Temba Bavuma, and sees the ba­sis of a struc­ture.

“That’s where they are far ahead of us. If we could get that sort of thing hap­pen­ing in the Caribbean it would help us a great deal. I think we have gone to­tally down­hill, but they have a bet­ter chance of res­cu­ing the sit­u­a­tion than we did be­cause we were not pre­pared at all.”

Money? “I don’t think they are rock bot­tom as far as fund­ing is con­cerned. Cas­tle and Sun­foil are ready to put money in the sport. We have never had a West In­dian com­pany putting money into cricket. They [South Africa] should never get to the stage where we are now, but there’s a chance of it slip­ping to an un­ac­cept­able level.

“You’ve got to have money to keep your peo­ple play­ing do­mes­tic cricket. The coun­tries that have money and can af­ford to pay their crick­eters, and con­vince them to stay back and help the de­vel­op­ment of their cricket, will al­ways be well ahead of those coun­tries that don’t.

“I’d love to see Shashank Manohar (the new chair­man of the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil) change the ex­ist­ing ar­range­ment of the three coun­tries [Aus­tralia, Eng­land and In­dia] rap­ing the cricket sys­tem. With­out fund­ing, the lesser coun­tries will keep on get­ting more and more in­signif­i­cant.” — www. tele­graph.co.uk

SA'S Temba Bavuma cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing a cen­tury against Eng­land in Cape Town last week.

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