Spinners mark the beginning of a cycle
An abundance of real talent or a sausage machine?
According to previous Proteas spinner Paul Adams, the 11 bowlers – seven of whom are beginners – who were invited to be part of Cricket SA’s (CSA) annual spinners’ training camp are indicative of an emerging group who will offer the national Test team a wealth of choice.
“I think it’s important to note that we are at the beginning of a cycle,” Adams told City Press’ sister publication Rapport. “In the past two years opportunities have started to open for spinners to establish themselves in the Proteas team. Guys like [the Cobras’] Dane Piedt and [the Warriors’] Simon Harmer have been given a few chances. But there is no clarity on the Proteas’ preferred spinner.”
Piedt and Harmer raised eyebrows in the 2013/14 campaign with 45 and 40 wickets respectively, but overall spinners’ wicket hauls at local level remain very irregular.
Keshav Maharaj, the Dolphins’ lefthand spinner, was last season’s leading spinner with 36 wickets. He jointly took the fifth most wickets. His bowling average of 29.38 is also relatively expensive, but – somewhat more worrying – this was the best of any spinner who garnered more than 20 wickets.
Are spinners of Test quality not supposed to pick up wickets cheaply?
“Of course that’s the ideal, but I’m not sure it’s always feasible in local conditions. Several international spinners really struggled in Test series here. It’s not easy to be a spinner in South Africa. We tend to single out players as an attacking or defending spinner. I think it’s about flexibility, to vary your attack as a bowler in line with the state of the game,” said Adams.
Vinnie Barnes, a one-time Proteas bowling coach and CSA’s high performance manager, doubts whether pitches specifically prepared for spinners will boost their development.
“It is dangerous to prepare conditions for a specific group of players. You don’t want to jeopardise development seamers and batsmen by favouring spinners. I actually think it is encouraging if a spinner like Keshav takes 36 wickets at an average of 30. It shows a spinner who can work hard for a reward.
“Wickets are not easy for a spinner at the highest level,” he said.
Aaron Phangiso said South African cricket must be patient with the development of its spinners.
Retired spinner Paul