The great es­cape to In­dia

Proteas will be re­lieved to re­group away from con­tro­versy

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

TIME was when a trip to In­dia was viewed with some trep­i­da­tion by South African crick­eters, that is most cer­tainly not the case to­day.

Fol­low­ing a week of up­heaval, caused by board­room in­ter­fer­ence in the team’s coach­ing struc­ture, the best move for the South African team to make is to go to In­dia, which is ex­actly what they will do this morn­ing.

There may be a gen­uine sense of re­lief flow­ing through the side that they can get out of the coun­try af­ter all the con­tro­versy of the last five days that has seen Mickey Arthur, their coach of five years re­sign, and the cap­tain’s role in that de­ci­sion scru­ti­nised.

“That’s the good thing, that our fo­cus will be on one thing and that’s the cricket,” said Ke­pler Wes­sels, who has been roped in as a bat­ting con­sul­tant by the in­terim coach Cor­rie van Zyl, and as a stop-gap se­lec­tor by Cricket SA’s board.

“We can take the em­pha­sis off the po­lit­i­cal stuff and con­cen­trate on the cricket. There are a few days which we will have to­gether in Nag­pur that in­clude a warm-up game and that should al­low every­one’s minds to fo­cus on the task at hand.”

The prob­lems within the side may not be as pro­found as those in CSA’s board­room, but they still need fix­ing.

For the most part they in­volve the area Wes­sels has been hired to look af­ter – the bat­ting.

Right at the top is Ash­well Prince who strug­gled to make runs against Eng­land and has voiced his un­hap­pi­ness at hav­ing to do duty as an opener.

“Be­fore any­thing hap­pens there, Cor­rie wants to have a dis­cus­sion with Ash­well about how he feels about open­ing the bat­ting,” said Wes­sels.

If Prince stays true to what he said be­fore the Eng­land se­ries then he’ll tell Van Zyl he’s not very happy at all.

Prince only did the job for the first time last year when in the fi­nal Test against Aus­tralia he opened the bat­ting with Graeme Smith out in­jured and Neil McKen­zie dropped.

He made 150 and every­one thought the prob­lem was solved. Against Eng­land he av­er­aged 13.85 with just one note­wor­thy score of 45, though at least half his dis­missals came with ex­cel­lent de­liv­er­ies.

“If he tells Cor­rie he wants to stay at the top of the or­der then he will find it ben­e­fi­cial to play in the sub­con­ti­nent,” Wes­sels ex­plained.

“I know there’s the old say­ing about open­ing the bat­ting be­ing the hard­est job in the game, but there are some ad­van­tages to be­ing an opener in the sub­con­ti­nent, where you don’t face the kind of bowler­friendly wick­ets you find in Eng­land, Aus­tralia and South Africa.”

Once they do find Prince’s favoured po­si­tion, dis­cus­sion will cen­tre mainly around strat­egy for his tech­nique re­mains strong and com­pact.

JP Du­miny’s tech­nique may have been ques­tioned over the course of the Eng­land se­ries, but Wes­sels wants to high­light two ma­jor points with him.

“ I ’ ve worked with him be­fore, the first thing is to look at his ap­proach to the off­spin­ner and sec­ond is his play against short pitched bowl­ing.

“Ob­vi­ously he won’t get a lot of that in In­dia this time but it will be use­ful for him to fig­ure out how to re­gain his con­fi­dence against the short ball.”

Harb­ha­jan Singh lies in wait when it comes to the first is­sue and fol­low­ing his trou­bles with Graeme Swann, it’s an area of Du­miny’s game that re­quires spe­cific at­ten­tion.

In his ca­pac­ity as se­lec­tor Wes­sels doesn’t an­tic­i­pate mak­ing dras­tic changes to the start­ing XI, though the con­di­tions will dic­tate which course the se­lec­tors take, and they’re more than likely to in­clude a spinner. “The last time we were there we got that green top in Ahmed­abad and then a bro­ken rag­ing turner in Kanpur.

“I don’t think we’ll see an­other green top again, they won’t be­ing do­ing us sim­i­lar favours this time.”

South Africa play a two-day warm-up game start­ing on Tues­day.

The first Test be­gins in Nag­pur next Satur­day.

FO­CUS: Bat­ting coach Ke­pler Wes­sels will con­cen­trate on cricket.

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