Batsmen beware: It’s Lutho!
Faf and Markram certainly rate this hot-shot 20-year-old bowler – the pair among his victims in the MSL
Looking at Lutho Sipamla you wouldn’t think, “here’s a tough guy”. He’s still carrying his baby fat. He’s confident but reserved and he speaks with a clarity that belies his 20 years.
“Personally, I think you have to learn very quickly. You can’t be on the back foot. You can’t always be asking for help from other people,” says Sipamla.
Before the Mzansi Super League, Sipamla was one of those names people in cricket circles whispered about. “Him, sure, he’s got something,” they would say.
Now, everyone knows, including Proteas captain Faf du Plessis and future Proteas captain Aiden Markram. Sipamla dismissed both of them in Wednesday’s MSL match at Supersport Park.
Du Plessis was introduced to Sipamla afterwards and told him he was bowling nicely. That’s a helluva recognition for a player who last season was still being introduced to the Eastern Province semiprofessional side.
A severe knee injury meant Lungi Ngidi played no part in the MSL and elevated Sipamla to a regular starting berth. He’s played all seven of the Tshwane Spartans’ matches and heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures was the second highest wicket-taker with 12.
“Instead of moaning that Lungi’s not here, I took the responsibility. I might not have expected to play this many games, but I’ve practised harder, talked to the captain and coach and that has helped me.”
Playing tough and hard cricket is something that Sipamla aspires to. It’s something he takes pride in as well as learning from heroes like Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, Brett Lee, Michael Holding and lately, Mfuneko Ngam, who’s been coaching him at the Warriors.
“Those heroes, I’ve built a lot of them into my cricket; the aggression, the rhythm, always playing the cricket hard and trying to be as clinical as possible.
“Being from Eastern Province, we feel undermined as a cricket union. From a young age when you go to junior cricket weeks, you come across Gauteng, Western Province, KZN Inland, KZN Coastal side and EP was always frowned upon. I think you had to be hard, you had to be tough, take it all on board, and say, ‘listen, we are here to play’. That’s how I grew up playing my cricket, I didn’t want to be looked down upon because I’m from Eastern Province. We had to throw the first punch, show that we are around; we had to show we are here to play cricket.”
Sipamla’s father Mahlubi placed reason, people use it to add fuel to the idea that Campbell has way too high an opinion of himself. Maybe they should admit he’s just being honest. Maybe he knows that if he doesn’t say it, nobody else is going to say it.
Paul Ince did say on television that it did not sit easily with him that other high-profile former England players have gone into jobs near the top of the football pyramid whereas Campbell, one of the outstanding defenders of his generation, has had to start at Macclesfield Town, a club that was five points adrift at the bottom of League Two when he took the job.
He is right to point that out, too. There are eight managers from a black or minority ethnic background in the English leagues; an improvement but still nowhere near representative of the number of black players in the game.
Campbell was one of the stars of the Golden Generation. He was also keen to get into football management. Those two factors alone should have smoothed his path into coaching. But Campbell is also black and English clubs are notoriously reluctant to hire black managers. So Campbell had to wait. And wait.
And let’s not forget that when black managers do get an opportunity, it’s often at clubs where the odds are stacked against them. And so the statistics about whether they tend to succeed or fail are also skewed. They play into the hands of those who want to see them fail. There are plenty among that number. It has been sobering, his then seven-year-old son in an academy in Port Elizabeth in 2005.
“He was trying to keep me busy, he was a working man (an insurance broker) at the time; after school that 2pm-5pm period, you want to keep a child as occupied as possible. I just think he thought, ‘here’s an academy, go play some sport, be active’.
“He gave me the opportunity to play whatever sport I wanted. I took cricket on board and then at junior school played a bit of rugby – flank and eighth man. I was very active as a child, I played as many sports as possible, and took on cricket as I went into high school.”
That high school was Grey High, which counts Graeme and Peter Pollock, Dave Callaghan, Jan Serfontein, and most famously of late, Siya Kolisi among its alma marta. although grimly predictable, to see the outpouring of bile and abuse aimed at Campbell on social media since he took the job at Moss Rose. Some of it may be a twisted hangover from his decision to leave Spurs for Arsenal. Some of it is outright racism.
Nor does it help that each time a black manager gets a job, some people think it’s OK to use it as a test case about whether black managers make good managers. That is a question so stupid it’s not even worth discussing but it heaps pressure on an already pressurised existence.
I like Macclesfield Town. It’s the team closest to where I grew up. To coin a phrase sometimes
“He (Kolisi) was a big thing when I was in junior school going into high school. He was out (of school) three or four years already when I reached high school but he was still a big thing at Grey; you knew what he’d done,” said Sipamla of the Springboks’ newest captain.
He is a while away from achieving the level of stardom that Kolisi now enjoys but Sipamla’s clear what his goals are and how he needs to go about achieving them.
“The long term goal, like it is for any cricketer in South Africa, is to play for the Proteas. But I wouldn’t say I want to get there quickly. It’s not about wanting to play for a higher team very fast. I just think my drive is to try and learn about the game, earlier than other people.
“So I try and learn from my mistakes as quickly as possible – even mistakes that others make that I haven’t, I’m trying to rectify those before I make them.
“I’m not trying to make teams faster than anyone else, but I am trying to learn quicker. I think it will help me play better cricket and be a better cricketer, rather than me just trying to make teams.”
His exposure in the MSL has certainly accelerated that process as Wednesday’s match showed, when the 20-year-old right-arm fast bowler claimed 3/19 in four overs, adding Dwayne Bravo’s wicket to those of Markram and Du Plessis.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience, playing against international players, better players, it raises your standards a lot, you’ve got to come out there, raise your A game, show what you’ve got, it’s helped me... play proper cricket, harder cricket.
“I’ve learnt a lot playing with the more experienced campaigners like AB, Robbie (Frylinck) and Rory (Kleinveldt); they have calm heads and they’ve got a lot of information to give. I’ve learned a lot.”
And he will continue to do so even as he leads the Spartans’ attack, a quite stunning development given his status as a rookie player.
Sipamla’s journey is only just starting. It’s to his credit that he knows what he wants from his future. He is out here learning – quickly. And that will make him tougher and South African cricket will be all the better for that. used in other circumstances, some of my best friends are Macclesfield Town fans. But you don’t need local knowledge to realise Campbell has been thrown in at the deep end.
Moss Rose is on the edge of town, at the top of the hill beyond the old textile mills, next to the road to Leek. It can be a bleak place in the winter and the club have seemed doomed to relegation almost since the start of this season, rooted to the bottom of the table.
Those who are already salivating about the prospect of seeing Campbell fail might care to reflect on that. If he can keep Macclesfield Town up, it would be a stunning achievement. At least he has been given the chance to try. |
LUTHO Sipamla of the Spartans bowls during the MSL match against the Jozi Stars at Centurion recently|