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

Saturday Star - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS stu­[email protected]

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. |

GAVIN BARKER Back­pagepix

LUTHO Si­pamla of the Spar­tans bowls dur­ing the MSL match against the Jozi Stars at Cen­tu­rion re­cently|

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