In this interview, I talk with South African Cricket Journalist Tom Sizeland through the following topics:
- South Africa’s Recent Tour in Sri Lanka.
- Theunis De Bruyn, Aiden Markram and Dale Steyn.
- South Africa’s upcoming Tour v Zimbabwe at Home and Australia Overseas.
- South Africa’s preperations towards Next Year’s 50-Over World Cup.
- England’s Recent Tour v India and Upcoming Away Tour v Sri Lanka.
- Any future Protea players to watch.
- Thoughts on Alastair Cook.
1. What now for the Proteas after an arduous month in the subcontinent v Sri Lanka?
The problem with this is that the Proteas aren’t going to play away from home or in the subcontinent for quite a while.
It’s very tough to learn from those mistakes when there’s so much happening in between now and then.
We saw them getting dominated by India a couple of years ago and now Sri Lanka.
For the for next year or two, South Africa will need to focus on one-day cricket as the 2019 World Cup isn’t too far away.
So there will be a lot of ODI cricket to prepare & compete beforehand.
Regarding Test Cricket, they only have the upcoming Test Series v Pakistan in December.
Plus there might be one or two test matches v Zimbabwe if I’m not mistaken.
Although, that might even be only one-day cricket.
It’s tough to learn from those mistakes when you’re not going to be playing for a long time.
One good example is the two-test series in which I disagree as I’m a traditionalist.
I love to see four or five test match series as we’ve seen when England played against India.
How exciting was that!
To try and play two tests in challenging conditions gives you no chance to rectify those mistakes to build form.
Obviously, the reason why the Protea batting order struggled where they’re unprepared & undercooked.
Now it’s going to be quite a struggle moving forward because they won’t play in the subcontinent for a while.
They have to get through as quickly as possible with the focus now is fine-tuning their performance in ODI cricket.
2. We may be okay with the fast bowlers.
But the biggest problem is the top order, How could they have done better if given more time to prepare in the subcontinent?
One thing they could have done better is spending some time in Sri Lanka beforehand.
However, if it was a four or five-match series, then maybe their batting order could’ve improved or fix up those mistakes.
We saw what Theunis De Bruyn did in the second test.
That does go to show runs are available there.
I think they came in with the wrong mindset and a lack of time to adjust with the right conditions.
Theunis De Bruyn’s casing point as to what could’ve happened if it was a more extended test series or more time in the subcontinent because we saw this Sri Lankan batsman who didn’t need have many issues at all.
Dimuth Karunaratne was in superb form.
But then again, there are selection issues on the Proteas’ behalf.
I think they’ve went with one spinner & three seamers during the second test which is outrageous.
They threw in two spinners on Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi in the 1st test.
Even though that wasn’t enough, Maharaj had to do all the work in a test that suited the spinners.
Again, it’s a matter of not spending more time to build up any esteem.
It’s interesting to see England will finalize their selection for their upcoming tour next month in Sri Lanka.
They will go through how South Africa went about their business & hopefully learn by not following their mistakes.
3. Hashim Amla hasn’t performed well in tests as consistent as hoped at recent times.
Why or why not Amla should deserve another chance to stay within the International level for as long as possible?
I think at this stage for the Proteas; the experience is vital for them.
And they should hold onto Amla for as long as possible.
He’s 35 years old now, and I think I saw that since Alastair Cook made his debut in 2006, Only Hashim Amla is second on the lists of balls faced.
Cook is Number 1; Amla is second.
It goes to convey the number of hours put in and experience Amla has, maybe he’s a bit out of form.
However, his qualities are still there because he justified his right to choose when to retire.
When he knows the time is right & move on from the good of the team, they will need to find a Number 3 who’s good enough to replace Amla.
If the Cricket South Africa Selectors/Management feel that Amla’s the right man to stay in the side, there’s no one to fill-in right now.
And it’s essential that Amla carries on as well as the players around him such as someone within his temperament and his experience.
Aiden Markram is still new to International Cricket plus the experienced pair of Faf (Du Plessis) & (Dean) Elgar.
We know AB De Villers has retired now and if Amla follows him at this moment, then it would be another massive dent to the Proteas.
I think on his experience alone, he should still be playing for as long as he wants until they find a viable solution.
4. One particular player who shone unexpectedly is Theunis De Bruyn having scored 100 at first drop.
After scoring his first ton in Sri Lankan conditions, how does it change your opinion on him & should De Bruyn get an extended chance v Pakistan this summer?
Yes, that’s an interesting take because De Bruyn took a long time to get his career going for the Proteas.
You could argue that he’s a liability at Six or Seven in the middle order before moving up to three where he usually does for the Titans in Domestic Cricket.
That position is his most comfortable spot to bat.
Whether or not he can bat at Three for a while and then suddenly perform, it’s a bit of a risk for the Proteas as a whole squad plus his International career.
But I certainly think that they have a few frailties in the middle order especially with AB (De Villiers) gone now and Faf isn’t the best run of form either.
Temba Bavuma does a job in the middle to low order, but he doesn’t score the big runs consistently enough.
It’s a great time now for De Bruyn where his maiden test century such as his timing is incredible.
If he made another low score, then De Bruyn would’ve been in danger of missing a regular place in the team.
But now having answered the critics, De Bruyn will play against Pakistan.
I think he does deserve that shot because he’s the only who scored runs v Sri Lanka and what a knock that was.
Now he will have to build on that and score runs.
He can’t keep faltering needing to build some consistency, and he’s there with his chance and must capitalize.
I think he has a chance in the middle order but not at first drop with Amla still in the side.
But maybe at five or six where De Bruyn must continue to justify his place in that team.
The Proteas, generally speaking, do usually bring inexperienced players at Five, Six or Seven.
So he must continue in that vain.
5. It’s hard to tell when Aiden Markram batted for South Africa first time outside of home.
Having failed to score the adequate runs required, How much would you expect him to perform v Australia in two months time, next year’s World Cup & November 2019 Tour in India?
Yes, it’s a tough one.
But, it’s also an excellent opportunity for him now.
He didn’t take it seriously against Sri Lanka in the ODIs.
Maybe there’s a bit too much pressure on him because the management and selectors very much see Markram as their future captain.
Without Faf, he was the captain.
Let’s start with the two test matches where he struggled for the entire time.
But as we said, two tests isn’t enough for a new player to come into the subcontinent & start scoring runs.
In the test format, I have no issues with him thinking he was either the joint fastest South African to reach 1000 runs alongside Graeme Smith.
So those numbers speak for themselves as he’s a fantastic talent.
Markram does look like he’s a great player who has an outstanding technique.
I think the selectors should persist Markram in the ODIs as the retirement of AB De Villers is a perfect opportunity for someone like him.
So does Reeza Hendricks who has to earn and make a name for themselves.
I think it’s quite exciting for South Africa Cricket having seen youngsters forcing into the team.
You have Quinton De Kock, Markram, and Hendricks, all in that Top 4, that’s a young and exciting batting line-up.
And they should persist but not put too much pressure on him especially on home conditions v Australia, give him a couple of games v Zimbabwe which could help recapture his confidence.
The runs are there for Markram to score as he has the talent and technique.
Let’s see as the Proteas must look ahead of the World Cup and Aiden Markram is very much part of their plans.
You mention the 2019 Tour in India; It may be too far ahead.
I’m sure his place will still be safe at the top of the order.
But he should keep scoring runs because I don’t think there’s anyone else putting their hand at the top order.
So that’s an excellent opportunity for Markram to solidify his opening partnership with Dean Elgar.
6. Dale Steyn is on wicket 421 and ties Shaun Pollock on the all-time leading wicket-taker for the Proteas in tests.
How can Steyn do any better to keep himself fit & prolong his red-ball career as long as he can?
It’s a tough one with Steyn because I think he’s playing first-class cricket right now in England & performed reasonably well.
And the selectors make out the sentiment and decide whether if Steyn’s generally still good enough.
He’s losing a bit of pace which is understandable with his age and injuries.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s not good enough.
Steyn’s got so much experience where he still the line and length and a bit of pace.
It’s not to him but only the selectors.
Dale Steyn can only play as well as he can and if he’s hungry and keen to play, then if he’s good enough, he’s good enough.
With Kagiso Rabada leading the line and Lungi Ngidi coming through amazingly well.
Steyn’s still probably the 2nd or 3rd best seamer for the Proteas.
I would love to see a line-up of Rabada, Ngidi, and Steyn and of course Vernon Philander, especially on home conditions with a four-seam attack, no problems with that.
But it’s interesting to see if they will go with three seamers, a spinner, and an all-rounder.
If that is the case, then that probably leaves Steyn out.
Ngidi deserves to carry on which is essential for the future of the Proteas Cricket because he’s young and adds pace, especially where he had a brilliant start to his Test career v India.
As long as Philander keeps himself fit, he’s vital to the Proteas so does Rabada and Maharaj as the spinner.
With Morne Morkel’s retirement, there’s no doubt that Steyn’s next in line.
But it’s a tight selection.
I’m glad that Dale Steyn still has the hunger, I don’t think you should retire because people are telling to give up with your injuries.
If you’re still keen and determined to play, then you must.
I hope he’s playing just not because he wants to beat Pollock’s record.
But if he does play, beat Pollock’s record and retire straightaway afterward, then we know what he wanted to do.
Hopefully, he will continue to playing well for the Proteas and help them win games.
So, I think Steyn will be facted to the Proteas plans as long as he’s performing well and luckily he has a county stint going at the moment.
That’s a chance for him to build up some form.
7. Let’s look at One Day & Twenty20 Internationals; South Africa did very well within the first three ODI matches.
But in the last two & the lone T20I, without Faf Du Plessis’s expertise over a shoulder injury, How and what went wrong where Sri Lanka swooped the final three games with the win?
We can look Sri Lanka’s side of things maybe because we just laid their party.
In theory, Sri Lanka should be playing pretty well on their home turf with some fantastic players.
Angelo Mathew and Dinesh Chandimal probably don’t perform as well as they should be.
They’re the senior players in the team as those should be the ones stepping up in the last few matches.
The Proteas were 3-0 up before maybe they put the foot off the gas a bit.
I’m not sure what went wrong there, but I think (Quinton) De Kock was in the stand-in captain.
If you compare with De Kock and (Faf) Du Plessis as captains, then that’s a massive difference straight away in this scene.
Faf is such as great leader but I’m not sure about De Kock is.
With Faf’s injury, take away that leadership and then the substance of the middle-order such as Faf and the retirement of AB De Villiers.
Suddenly winning games in the subcontinent can become a lot trickier.
Reeza Hendricks scored his debut ODI hundred.
But you can’t expect him to score another hundred or keep up that fantastic form.
Putting in all elements put together, the Proteas do mix up their team quite a bit for those last two ODIs.
I think it’s one step, too far for them.
They had the series in the bag, though I’m quite happy with that.
Regarding the T20 Internationals, I remember the formula or selection for that second game or the only T20.
The tail started at seven where Andile Phehlukwayo came in that order.
I don’t think Phehlukwayo’s capable of batting at Seven as he’s more suited to Number 8 at best who’s a bowler first, batsmen second.
He’s a decent bowler with variations, not much pace.
But his variety is what excites the Proteas enjoy that brings to the party.
To put Phehlukwayo at seven followed by Rabada at 8, suddenly the tail is wagging.
And of course, the Proteas lost quick wickets at the top order, and suddenly Phehlukwayo had to come in very early.
It’s expecting too much from the tail, and that’s where I think they went wrong.
You can’t pick as many bowlers; you got to have all-rounders in the team that can both bat and do an excellent job with the ball.
And with Rabada at eight, you have got an out and out bowler who can maybe bat a little bit.
But you can expect him to do much more with the bat.
So it’s more of a selection and performance issue which is the reason why they lost the T20 where the guys didn’t step up.
I think three or four guys went on and reversed sweep which is just ridiculous.
A whole bunch of factors contributing to this downfall.
8. Next week, South Africa will host Zimbabwe on home soil; it may be a leisurely tour for them.
But how about their away tours in Australia in November plus home games v Pakistan from Boxing Day and into January?
In case you missed it, The Proteas beat Australia 5-0 in that ODI Series two years ago at home.
There’s no reason why they can’t do a similar thing in Australia now where their side looked more depleted as was without the likes of David Warner and Steven Smith.
We saw how England dismantled Australia 5-0 back in June as Australia have a lot of work to do to recover this situation.
I’m sure that they will come back a bit stronger having got used to the life without Warner and Smith.
They know that they’re players in the team who need to step such as the likes of Aaron Finch & Travis Head.
Those kinds of players need to perform, and hopefully, Mitchell Starc will be back fit and firing to make things more interesting.
Not sure if Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins will be back.
But without their presence, that’s where Australia severely lacked as well.
I think there’s a similar situation with the Proteas back in 2016 where they field second-string bowlers.
It’s pretty much like the second team as Australia are very unlucky with injuries and suspensions.
But at the same time, the Proteas do have a chance to capitalize against Zimbabwe and Australia in the coming weeks to months.
9. We’ve seen plenty of youngsters breaking into the main Protea squad in recent years.
Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, and Kagiso Rabada are in-demand with the quicks.
Aiden Markram is one of them as an opening batsman and a future captain similar to Graeme Smith.
Plus Wiaan Mulder who can shine both bat & ball & view as the next Jaques Kallis.
Can you see any U-19 or SA A players that has the full potential to play in the long-haul for South Africa?
Yes, I do.
I was talking about Hashim Amla earlier on and whether someone can step up in that No.3 position.
Well, someone is coming through named Zubayr Hamza who plays for South Africa A and has been performing brilliantly.
Hamza plays for Western Province at Domestic level.
He’s a fantastic young player who averages 50 in first-class cricket.
I think Hamza’s the next in line to take the No.3 spot.
As I said, Hashim Amla shouldn’t be leaving that mantle just yet.
But Hamza continues to perform consistently; then he’s very much a starter to impress the watchful eye of the selectors.
And on the U-19’s, there are a few.
But one particular player who stands out for me is Makhaya Ntini’s son, Thando Ntini.
He’s fantastic for his school and is performing for the SA U-19’s side too.
T. Nitini sees himself as an all-rounder.
Based on his stats, his bowling is exceptionally well right now.
However, he needs to improve on his batting.
If he can rectify his batting, then’s very much someone who wants to look out.
I had an interview with him before where he doesn’t want to see himself on Makhaya’s light.
He’s very much making a spot on his own.
If T. Ntini is capable of doing that as an all-rounder, then he’ll be a very different player to Makhaya Ntini.
Of course, Makhaya was an out and out fast bowler.
But Thando seems to have plenty of talent has performed well for the SA U-19s.
If they look after him & continues to go through the age groups, then I think you should remember that name.
10. We’ve seen Alastair Cook just announced his retirement from International Cricket.
What are your thoughts on the left-hand opener and how did he perform in his last test for England at The Oval?
Well, Alastair Cook has bowed out spectacularly with a fantastic knock of 147.
I think the exciting thing about that knock is that if he hadn’t played well, then I don’t want to say for sure.
But he had a chance to retire after next year’s Ashes in England v Australia.
Though, to finish off his International Cricket on such a high, there is no chance that he will come back.
But I think Cook wanted to end his Test Career on his terms and still be capable of playing at the highest level.
And I think he deserves that.
Having played 161 Test matches, he’s got more runs than any left-hand opening batsmen in test history.
He’s got the most consecutive test matches have been an incredible player for England.
Cook will go down as one of the greatest England’s batsmen and openers of all-time where he deserves all of those accolades.
So does Jimmy Anderson who just surpassed Glenn McGrath as the highest fast-bowling wicket taker of all time.
And I think Jimmy (Anderson) deserves that honor.
But he gets a bit of stick sometimes where people say he can only shine in England with a Duke ball on swinging conditions.
That’s very harsh as his bowling average looks great at 26.
And just the sheer longevity for a fast bowler, he’s 36 has played 140 test matches.
That’s incredible for itself.
I don’t know how long he will go on and continue playing in Tests.
But I reckon he will retire by next year’s Ashes Series because he will be past 37 by now which will be a great time to go.
I thought it’s such an excellent England v India Series where a 4-1 loss doesn’t do justice for India.
They played pretty well with their bowlers so does Virat Kohli and will fill a bit of grief when they lost 4-1.
But it’s brilliant for England and Alastair Cook to send-off like that.
Though, England will have issues heading into Sri Lanka.
I don’t think they will play as poorly as the Proteas did to ensure that they will learn and not make the mistakes.
England does have some pretty fantastic players of spin into the table.
But not only have an out of form opener in Keaton Jennings, but They will also now have to find someone to partner which will be their biggest problem.
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Image Credit: Tom Sizeland via Twitter.