Phehluk­wayo and Ki­pling’s two im­pos­tors

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xa­ban­isa sports@city­ Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Simx­a­ban­isa

The sim­i­lar­i­ties with Klusener hint at a des­tiny of sorts: he ac­tu­ally is Zulu, as op­posed to just be­ing called that; he bowls righthanded and bats left-handed; and the num­ber on his jersey in fran­chise cricket is Klusener’s iconic 69

It took Andile Phehluk­wayo four days to work out what he’d let him­self in for.

On Sun­day, the all-rounder’s 29 from 23 balls, which in­cluded two typ­i­cally lusty sixes, helped the Proteas over the line in a game they could be for­given for hav­ing thought they had lost against New Zealand’s Black Caps.

Then, on Wednes­day, hav­ing a few days be­fore cre­ated the ex­pec­ta­tion that he was the man for a cri­sis, Phehluk­wayo failed to turn 15 off the last over into a win – which would have been some­thing like turn­ing wa­ter into wine.

When an in­spired Tim Southee found the block hole to the tune of four suc­ces­sive dot balls from the first four de­liv­er­ies of the fi­nal over, we couldn’t help but judge Phehluk­wayo, even though he did re­verse-sweep the last two balls for four.

“Why take none of the sin­gles from the first four balls,” we cried in uni­son. Well, be­cause big­hearted but lim­ited Im­ran Tahir was on the other end, so Phehluk­wayo cor­rectly sur­mised only he could get the job done.

But he didn’t get the job done, which is the prob­lem with be­ing chris­tened a fin­isher – a task that is as thank­less as coach­ing the Boks.

Get it right and peo­ple of­fer you their daugh­ter’s hand in mar­riage. Get it wrong, the same folks curse your un­for­tu­nate birth.

At 20 years old, this is pretty much all Phehluk­wayo has to look for­ward to in life, be­cause his worth will forever be mea­sured by whether the smash and gig­gle comes off or not.

If he doesn’t be­lieve that, he should just ask the man he re­minds us most of – and his men­tor – Lance “Zulu” Klusener.

Zulu was South Africa’s best fin­isher, yet all we re­mem­ber him for is that run-out mix-up with Al­lan Don­ald in the 1999 World Cup semi­fi­nal against Aus­tralia. The irony is, that looked at in con­text, Klusener had per­formed mir­a­cles to so much as even get the Proteas in that win­ning po­si­tion.

How­ever, the only thing peo­ple re­mem­ber is the re­sult. This isn’t en­tirely fair as fin­ish­ing is pos­si­bly the most dif­fi­cult job on a cricket field – be­cause there are so many mov­ing parts at the back end of a one-day game.

The fin­isher, or, more to the point, pa­tron saint of lost causes, has to fac­tor in whether he has to knock it around or blast it from the off; ro­tate strike or keep it, de­pend­ing on whether he is in with an es­tab­lished bats­man or shep­herd­ing a tailen­der; know the dy­nam­ics of the sta­dium like the back of his hand for cheap bound­aries; or pre­dict what the bowler is go­ing to do. The list is end­less.

And, all the time, it’s not just about pure pow­er­hit­ting.

The player also has to be equipped with a slew of un­ortho­dox shots like the re­verse sweep, the ramp, the Dilscoop and the switch hit to drag the bowler away from the lines he’d like to bowl.

The main thing is to keep your head when ev­ery­one is go­ing ab­so­lutely bonkers around you. And that in it­self takes a lit­tle crazi­ness, if you think about it.

This is why it is said that the great­est fin­isher be­fore Ma­hen­dra Singh Dhoni, namely Aus­tralia’s Michael Be­van, was so in­tense that he used to take a cold shower while still wear­ing all of his kit on the rare oc­ca­sions he failed.

Un­for­tu­nately for Phehluk­wayo, it’s the kind of job he can’t avoid even if he wanted to.

When he was cap­tain of the Glen­wood first XI, he would ei­ther open the bowl­ing or bring him­self on when they needed a break­through, or back him­self to hit his team out of trou­ble. And, by all ac­counts, he was a won­der­ful fielder who had to be in­volved in the game at all times.

The sim­i­lar­i­ties with Klusener also hint at a des­tiny of sorts: he ac­tu­ally is Zulu, as op­posed to just be­ing called that; he bowls right-handed and bats left-handed; and the num­ber on his jersey in fran­chise cricket is the iconic 69 Klusener wore when he played for the Proteas. So this is what we have to do to avoid his­tory re­peat­ing it­self: Find out what Phehluk­wayo is like when run­ning be­tween the wick­ets.

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