VERN CAN MAKE A WORLD OF DIF­FER­ENCE

Sunday Tribune - - SPORT - LUN­GANI ZAMA lun­gani.zama@inl.co.za

STAY true to your colours. Stick to what you know. Trust the process and per­haps this time it will be your turn. Sport is full of clichés and well in­tended puffs of op­ti­mism when you are try­ing to ca­jole a per­for­mance from men and women.

SA’ male crick­eters are less than a year away from a World Cup.

There is a sense of 2019 be­ing more per­ti­nent than ever given the shelf life of sev­eral key men – and, of course, given what hap­pened at the last one. The Proteas know they still have work to do, if they want to take it deep into the World Cup. They have kept one of the most vanilla Aus­tralian out­fits seen in decades in­ter­ested, when they should have been ruth­lessly dis­miss­ing them 3-0.That is the ruth­less streak still miss­ing from the Proteas’ arse­nal.

Their pace trio apart, the com­pro­mised Aussies of 2018 are dis­tinctly av­er­age. South Africa ought to be driv­ing the dag­ger in­serted last sum­mer a bit deeper, but they have made a marsh out of a pud­dle.

A na­tion can only hope that this is not a por­tent of what is to come next June and July. At that time of year, sim­plic­ity will be key in Blighty. The play­ing sur­faces will of­fer some­thing to all bowlers, and the right at­tack can go a long way to­wards win­ning the whole thing.

But you still have to bat ac­cord­ingly. There are lessons to be gleaned from pre­vi­ous World Cup mis­sions, where a reck­less ap­proach led to dis­as­ter. The Proteas crick­et­ing class of 2007 ad­mit­ted that their com­mit­ment to ‘brave cricket’ had ac­tu­ally been a mis­guided one. They had strayed down a path whose des­ti­na­tion they were not quite sure of, and they were picked off by the street-smart ob­ject of their crick­et­ing ob­ses­sion; Aus­tralia.

They were em­bar­rassed, even, and forced to go back to the style that they were more fa­mil­iar with. As they say, old habits die hard.

The mod­ern trend is to hit the ac­cel­er­a­tor and keep the foot on it. How­ever, Faf du Plessis and Co may find more joy in be­ing a lit­tle cir­cum­spect. The No7 po­si­tion re­mains an is­sue, with Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pre­to­rius and Chris Mor­ris vy­ing for it. But there is an­other name that de­serves a chance. He is per­haps a more com­plete bowler than the other three and his bat­ting is a lot more con­sis­tent. He also has a score to set­tle from 2015, when he was an in­no­cent by­stander to po­lit­i­cal games that went way above his head.

Ver­non Phi­lan­der is that man. There is still time to give him a crack at fill­ing a po­si­tion that will be piv­otal, be­cause it pro­vides bal­ance. Get that slot wrong, and brave cricket turns into grave cricket.

Now, let us be frank. If he is good enough to be ac­knowl­edged as one of the very best Test bowlers around, there is no rea­son why he can’t trans­fer those skills to a swing­ing white-ball, in early UK sum­mer.

Go­ing with four, out and out bowlers is def­i­nitely ballsy. But the col­lec­tion of Messrs Rabada, Steyn, Ngidi and Tahir are the envy of many a na­tion. Chuck Vern Phi­lan­der’s unerring seam into that mix, if you dare. Not half bad, is it?

The Proteas could do a lot worse than at least trial that com­bi­na­tion against Pak­istan, who would test all depart­ments. This is the last chance saloon for the es­tab­lished core in the Proteas. Most of them won’t make it to 2021, never mind the 2023 World Cup. With that in mind, they might as well give them­selves their best pos­si­ble chance of suc­cess.

It is now, or never.

And that is no cliché.

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