In­juries a Ti­tan ‘bless­ing’

Test star Bavuma aim­ing to now also be­come a big hit in ODIs and T20s

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - STU­ART HESS ZAAHIER ADAMS

SEL­DOM has a spate of in­juries been been wel­comed by a coach as has been the case for Mark Boucher at the Ti­tans ahead of the start of the RamSlam.

The ab­sence of Faf du Plessis, Morne Morkel and Chris Mor­ris has made some po­ten­tially dif­fi­cult se­lec­tion de­ci­sions, eas­ier. In fact it may even prove help­ful for the Ti­tans as some of those in­jured play­ers will re­turn over the course of the tour­na­ment mak­ing the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons even stronger as the com­pe­ti­tion reaches its cli­max..

The Ti­tans have re­tained the ma­jor­ity of the side that won the com­pe­ti­tion last sea­son and with the Pro­teas avail­able, they’re also able to add AB de Vil­liers and Quin­ton de Kock. Mor­ris, who’s been train­ing with the side this week, is ex­pected to be ready to play in two weeks time, while Morkel will be back in the first week of De­cem­ber. Dale Steyn, will play the Ti­tans’s sec­ond match against the Knights in Kimberley on Wed­nes­day.

“With play­ers com­ing in through­out the tour­na­ment, the squad should re­main fresh which is a good thing,” said Boucher.”

Hav­ing the Pro­teas is an ob­vi­ous boon for the tour­na­ment, with Cricket SA hop­ing it en­cour­ages more peo­ple to head for the sta­di­ums. For the coaches, par­tic­u­larly Boucher, the pres­ence of so many Pro­teas presents some chal­lenges.

“I al­ways say to the play­ers, ‘well what would you do if you were the coach?’ and then you see them un­der­stand. They know the op­por­tu­ni­ties won’t be as much (as they’d like) but when they do get the op­por­tu­nity they’re ex­pected to re­ally bring good en­ergy into the side.”

An­other ben­e­fit of hav­ing the likes of De Vil­liers, Steyn, Mor­ris and Morkel around is the ex­am­ple they have set for some of the younger do­mes­tic play­ers. Lungi Ngidi tweeted this week about a pun­ish­ing but re­ward­ing ses­sion of ‘ death’ bowl­ing against De Vil­liers. “The Pro­teas train at in­ter­na­tional in­ten­sity, which is good for our guys to see,” said Boucher. “All of our in­ter­na­tion­als who’ve come back have been su­perb in the last four days. This is com­ing back to their roots for them, it’s where it all be­gan, and they en­joy that.”

“I en­cour­age guys to talk a lot, that’s how I learned, sit­ting hav­ing a beer with Pe­ter Kirsten af­ter the game. That’s where my ca­reer speeded up. It helps in terms of learn­ing how to deal with pres­sure, not just on the field, but even stuff off it as well. The young­sters are lucky these guys are back.”

The Ti­tans start the de­fence of their ti­tle with a derby against the Highveld Lions at Su­perS­port Park on Sun­day. They are favourites for that clash just as they are to win the whole tour­na­ment. It is a tag that Boucher rel­ishes. “If peo­ple are gun­ning for you it means you’re do­ing some­thing good. We un­der­stand that ev­ery side that comes up against us, re­ally ups their game. It’s nice to be favourites, we al­ways seem to be favourites re­gard­less of the com­pe­ti­tion, but that’s nice be­cause guys see you as the best in the coun­try.”

“We have talked about the threats that could come into the side, like com­pla­cency. But the cul­ture here is very strong, and if there is com­pla­cency I back our play­ers, to chat to each other, tell each other they have to up their games.”

The Ti­tans’s match against the Lions to­morow will start at 4pm. It will be pre­ceded by the clash be­tween the Cape Co­bras and the KZN Dol­phins that starts at noon.

*Mean­while Boucher said he will guided by the med­i­cal ex­perts and Dale Steyn about how much game time he will have over the course of the com­pe­ti­tion. Steyn won’t be in the squad for to­mor­row’s match, but is set to re­turn to on Wed­nes­day.

“Look I’m not just go­ing to throw him to the wolves, I un­der­stand he’s come back from a long lay-off and we have to man­age him care­fully,” said the Ti­tans coach. “The best guy to ask is the bowler, and I have a nice re­la­tion­ship with Dale, and he’ll be hon­est with me when I ask how he’s feel­ing. We’ll take it from there. We are in a po­si­tion where we can play him in one game, give him break, then play him again.”

“South Africa just want to see Dale back. He might play one game, and feel great and want to play again, that’s great, he’s part of our se­lec­tion plans, but if he feels a bit tight, he can go back to re­hab and we’ll work him in slowly.” A BRIEF look at the con­gested na­ture of South Africa’s one- day in­ter­na­tional and T20 pro­gramme in Fe­bru­ary 2018 – nine matches -- will tell you that Temba Bavuma might have a se­ri­ous shot at play­ing more white­ball cricket for the Pro­teas soon.

Bavuma might be able to use the up­com­ing Ram Slam T20 Chal­lenge as a launch­ing pad to un­der­line his silky skills with the blade and get more ODI and T20 recog­ni­tion.

The 27-year-old top-or­der bats­man of the Cape Co­bras ac­knowl­edges there might be an in­cen­tive, but he is quick to add that he has not thought that far ahead.

“Where Test cricket is all about the pres­sures that goes with that for­mat, T20 cricket is about go­ing out, ex­press­ing your­self and hav­ing fun,” he said.

“Our bat­ting is prob­a­bly where our strength lies, and we can lean on so much fire-power which will al­low the bowlers to de­fend big to­tals.

“We also have so much ex­pe­ri­ence with the ball,” he re­marked.

“Bat­ting sets you up in T20 cricket, but it is the bowlers who win com­pe­ti­tions,” he adds.

“I am con­fi­dent of our chances in the com­pe­ti­tion.”

Bavuma will be one of at least four fully-fledged in­ter­na­tional play­ers in the Cape Co­bras top and mid­dle-or­der in the open­ing T20 Chal­lenge match against the Dol­phins. They clash to­mor­row at Su­perS­port Park.

The en­er­getic mid­dle-or­der bats­man is one of South Africa’s most un­der­es­ti­mated crick­eters in the ODI for­mat. In two games for the Pro­teas, he smashed 113 and 48. In his most re­cent per­for­mance, against Bangladesh, Bavuma and Quin­ton de Kock added 119 for the first wicket.

The 27-year-old has all the char­ac­ter­is­tics to be­come a fully en­trenched player for South Africa in all three for­mats.

His Cape Co­bras col­league Hashim Amla is a case in point of a crick­eter who im­proved his T20 skills to such a de­gree that he has be­come a world-class prac­ti­tioner in the short­est for­mat.

He av­er­ages 34.51 in T20s, which com­pares favourably with his 49.87 in Tests and 51.25 in ODIs. In short, Amla is the ul­ti­mate “evolved” player.

In Test cricket, Bavuma is a clas­si­cal bats­man who strikes the ball late. He uses his feet splen­didly, can dis­patch spin­ners eas­ily by ad­vanc­ing down the wicket and is not lim­ited to only off-side or on-side shots.

“My ap­proach in T20 cricket would be to hit bound­aries by find­ing the gap. What­ever is de­manded, what­ever my body tells me to do, I will do. The ques­tion is – what is de­manded.”

The diminu­tive star is one of the world’s pre­mier ath­letes and can lift the Cape Co­bras in the field.

His dis­missal of David Warner in the first Test of the Aus­tralia se­ries at the Waca in late 2016 went vi­ral and was widely hailed as one of the finest di­rect hits of the past two decades.

“I don’t do more field­ing prac­tice than the av­er­age guy. Grow­ing up, I bowled, but now I don’t so I have learned field­ing as my sec­ond skill.

“Field­ing is a big at­ti­tude thing. Ev­ery­body can catch or stop a ball. But it is just about hav­ing en­joy­ment and a love to con­trib­ute to the cause,” he said.

WELL-PLACED: Mark Boucher. says hav­ing Pro­teas play­ers in the camp boosts the squad.

Temba Bavuma

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