Injuries a Titan ‘blessing’
Test star Bavuma aiming to now also become a big hit in ODIs and T20s
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.