Sunday Times

Sunrisers may show way for Proteas


● A plethora of top order batting and fast bowling talent means the Proteas will have all the tools to conduct a strong campaign in this year’s T20 World Cup, providing a clear strategy that allows the prodigious personnel to thrive is outlined.

Adrian Birrell, who as head coach oversaw two title-winning runs for the Sunrisers Eastern Cape in the SA20, says there is no doubt that the Proteas have the players to win a global tournament, but being assured of a game plan that can be implemente­d even in the most pressurise­d matches holds the key to a successful tournament. “I’d just pick all our players,” Birrell chirped when asked about how Rob Walter might mimic the Sunrisers’ success.

Barring injury, Aiden Markram and Marco Jansen will be heading to New York for that World Cup in June. So should Tristan Stubbs and, if it were up to Birrell, so would Ottneil Baartman. “Rob will know what he wants to do, and how he wants to go about implementi­ng it,” said Birrell.

“You look at the bowling available to him and it’s formidable. I’d be very surprised if Baartman didn’t go, but even beyond the big names, a guy like Lizaad Williams has done nothing wrong either.”

If he hasn’t, it would be well worth Walter’s time to tap up Birrell about how the Sunrisers have achieved success. At one stage Birrell was actually among the candidates for the job Walter now holds, but if anyone thought that at the age of 63 he was out of touch with the modern game, Birrell’s achievemen­ts have dispelled that notion.

A team that before the first season of the SA20 many dismissed as having little chance of winning — despite them paying the largest price for a player when acquiring Stubbs for R9.2m — has taken two different routes to lifting the trophy.

“Last year we really struggled to find the right balance, and we only played our best cricket once we got to the semifinal and then in the final.

“This year we settled on our best team quite early, from game two. If we had an injury, we had someone slot in and, as soon as that injured player was fit, he came back in. We had that scenario with Tom Abell and Baartman.”

What Walter already knows is that he’ll have a supportive captain. Markram worked with Walter when he was head coach at the Northern Titans and was just emerging from the junior ranks where he’d famously led South Africa’s under-19 team to the world title in 2014. “He got the best out of me as a coach,” Birrell said of Markram.

“He’s a reserved guy and only speaks when necessary, but the guys follow him... he’s a natural leader. We speak a lot about plans and when he is on the field it’s driven by him. You watch him in the field and, as a player, you can only be inspired.”

In what will be a boost for the last domestic competitio­n of the season, Markram, along with the rest of the contracted Proteas, will be available for the opening few rounds of matches in the CSA T20 Challenge that starts on March 8.

That tournament will be closely monitored, not only by Walter, who will still be assessing individual­s for the World Cup, but by Birrell too.

“I’m very interested in how our ‘bench players’ perform. They were very good throughout the (SA20) competitio­n, even though they weren’t playing. I really want them to succeed and will be interested in watching how their games have improved.”

More broadly Birrell hopes that with two seasons of the SA20 now completed, local players who weren’t drafted will want to prove they are deserving of a contract. “They should be desperate to be involved,” he said.

“Getting into the World Cup, even at this late stage, should still be at the top of the list for any (domestic) player, but with what is on offer in SA20, not just financiall­y, but the knowledge available, should encourage guys to perform and be a part of it.”

 ?? Picture: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images ?? Aiden Markram of South Africa.
Picture: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images Aiden Markram of South Africa.
 ?? Pitcher/Gallo Images Picture: Grant ?? Proteas’ Marco Jansen.
Pitcher/Gallo Images Picture: Grant Proteas’ Marco Jansen.
 ?? ?? Sunrisers Eastern Cape coach Adrian Birrell
Sunrisers Eastern Cape coach Adrian Birrell

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