Superstar in waiting Fuzile wait is over
EARNING points for a draw, some sluggish early season pitches, a dodgy set of new Kookaburra balls and the lack of high quality fast bowling has all played a part in no team being able to win a match after three rounds of this season’s Sunfoil Series.
Brows have been left furrowed as the early match-ups in the country’s premier first class competition have produced only draws. There have been 10 totals of 400 runs or more, including the Cape Cobras’s 567/6 in the third innings of their match against the Knights in Bloemfontein in the first round. Cobras coach Ashwell Prince described the pitch used at the Mangaung Oval for that match as being bad for South African cricket.
A total of 23 hundreds have been scored through those first three rounds. In the entire competition last season there were 40 hundreds.
“It’s a combination of factors; the ball plays a part, maybe 5 percent,” said Highveld Lions captain Stephen Cook.
The batch of Kookaburra balls utilised this season have not been to the bowlers’ liking and Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana has not been impressed: “I have a theory about the balls, they have not been great this season.
“The markings stay on the ball, it’s tough to shine it, the seam is too narrow, even flat ... you try to shine it and it doesn’t swing,” Toyana added.
Toyana and his captain are more firmer in their agreement about the impact the new points scoring system has had on play in the Sunfoil Series this season, saying the six points earned for a draw – being used for the first time – are making teams less likely to fold if they fall too far behind in the match.
“The six points for draws has made teams more eager to fight. In the past, teams would get under pressure and just give up,” said Toyana.
Cook believes that desire to fight harder would breed a tougher set of cricketers domestically: “In terms of what we are trying to create as a culture for the Proteas in Test cricket, this is good because it’s creating that fight. “In the last two years there have been concerns about the absence of resilience, a lot of games were not going the distance in 4-day cricket. I think we will see a lot of character with guys more willing to fight now.”
Worryingly there’s been a dearth of quality fast bowling in the opening rounds of the competition, a result - Cook felt - of a knock on effect of the injuries that have sidelined the country’s top fast bowlers.
Said Cook: “On good wickets, it’s straight out pace that can knock teams over, we saw that with (Kagiso) Rabada and (Duanne) Olivier against Bangladesh.”
“We are struggling to get quick men ... guys who can consistently bowl 140 (km/h), to scare sides out,” said Toyana. “It’s an issue countrywide, a problem we need to address, we must look to the pipeline, what Under-19 guys are coming through or even in the amateur structure.” SA FEATHERWEIGHT champion Azinga Fuzile,
who is just 21 and still a high school learner, will be making his debut in Gauteng when he fights in the first round of the Super Four against battle-hardened Tshifhiwa Munyai at Emperors Palace next weekend.
Fuzile’s trainer is very confident ahead of the clash.
“Munyai is in trouble,” said trainer Mlandeli Tengimfene. “Azinga is coming for him. The Super Four will be his launch pad.”
Anyone who saw Fuzile take apart Macbute Sinyabi last year will attest to his skills. He was fast and accurate, his awkward southpawstyle completely neutralising Sinyabi’s offence. The only surprise was that the fight wasn’t mercifully called off in the later rounds.
Remarkably, he’s had just eight pro bouts, but what that record doesn’t indicate is his excellence as an amateur. In his final fight, he won gold at the African championships – hence the “Golden Boy” moniker – capping an excellent run in the unpaid ranks.
That he was destined for bigger and better things was apparent, even though his participation in the Super Four was initially in doubt due to the fact that he has exams to prepare for, but Tengimfene, who used to train Xolani Ndongeni, assures that his protégé has time for both.
“He loves school; there’s no partying or girls. He’s very dedicated – he gets up early for road work and is back at home by six to get ready for school. After school, it’s homework and then gym from five to seven after which he is back in the books.”
If he seems like a smart young man, the 21-year-old is just as dedicated a fighter. Tengimfene says he works tremendously hard in their Mdantsane gym, hungry to break into the international scene.
He laughs off the suspicion that Fuzile may be in over his head against the former Commonwealth champion next weekend.
He points out that in Fuzile’s pro debut he boxed someone (Sibusiso Khumalo) with 17 pro bouts. And that’s been the story of his career; he’s never fought anyone with a lesser record.
“The only absent names,” says his trainer, “are Munyai and Simpiwe Vetyeka ... and we’re coming for them.”
The team intends to travel early to Johannesburg this weekend, to ensure they acclimatise and get used to the conditions well in time.
Fuzile has never fought beyond the Eastern Cape, but Tengimfene is unconcerned. He sees the reward in showcasing a potential superstar to a major audience in Gauteng and on live television.
“We’re very excited,” he says of the looming challenge. “People in Joburg will love this guy. He’s a superstar-in-waiting.” – ANA
READY FOR A SPIN: Imran Tahir and South Africa will begin their earnest build towards the World Cup from this weekend.