Cape Town – Namibia may not be one of the most glamorous places Vernon Philander is likely to visit in the near future, but the Proteas star’s availability for the Cape Cobras’ pre-season trip to south-west Africa underlines his commitment to improving his one-day skills.
Philander was on Tuesday recalled from the international one-day wilderness to the Proteas squad for next month’s five-match ODI series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
For many it is inconceivable that it has taken this long for Philander’s services to be called upon in one-day cricket, although that notion is primarily based upon his phenomenal success rate with the red ball in the white flannels of the Proteas Test team.
Philander, though, is philosophical about his limited-overs performances to date – he has played eight ODIs – admitting that there “is room of improvement”.
Closer inspection of his career statistics, and calling him out on his own favourite phrase “stats don’t lie” that he so famously uttered at Lord’s after bowling South Africa to the World No 1 Test ranking at Lord’s last year, it is clear that Philander needs to put shoulder to the wheel.
And the World No 2 Test bowler is certainly doing everything from his side to prepare in the best possible manner to “up-skill” as Proteas coach Russell Domingo so eloquently put it at the squad announcement.
Although Philander’s international season came to a close seven months ago, he has kept furiously busy with a stint at English county Kent, plus a very productive sojourn to the tropical islands of the West Indies, where he played a leading role in helping the Jamaica Tallawahs to the inaugural Caribbean Premier League T20 title.
“I made a conscious decision at the end of last season that I wanted to play ODIs for my country again. Obviously though, I knew I needed to work on my skills if I wanted to be selected,” Philander told the Cape Times Wednesday.
“The trips to England and the West Indies, in particular, were very helpful as I played on different pitches.
“In those conditions, you must learn to adapt quickly and really develop different methods if you want to be successful. I am really looking forward to the Pakistan trip where I know the conditions won’t be easy, and your skills need to keep you out of trouble,” Philander added.
Before Philander makes the trip to the Arabian desert, his franchise coach Paul Adams is hoping he can share some of his experiences with the younger Cobras players while they are in the African desert.
Philander is one of three current South African Test squad members on the Namibian trip, along with Robin Peterson and Rory Kleinveldt.
“It’s great that we can provide our national cricketers with a chance to hone their skills before a tour, that’s part of our responsibility to them,” Adams said.
“But at the same time, it’s awesome to have them with us, because our rookies can learn so much from them. Take a guy like Siya Simetu ... he can sit in the dressingroom and just pick Robbie P’s brain for hours on spin-bowling tactics. Likewise Beuran (Hendricks) can continue his upward curve by chatting with Vernon and Rory.”
Simetu’s development in the two T20 matches and one 50-over clash against Namibia will be closely monitored as the left-arm spinner could possibly line up as the Cobras’ first-choice slow bowler once the 1-Day Cup gets underway.
It has been a dreadful winter for the Cobras in terms of injuries, with SA A off-spinner Dane Piedt the latest to suffer a setback.
Piedt “popped his shoulder” according to Adams while doing a fielding drill and will be out of action for close on three weeks.
He joins opening batsmen Alistair Gray (broken thumb) and Richard Levi (back) on the sidelines.
cobras squad: Justin Ontong (capt), Andrew Puttick, Beuran Hendricks, Charl Langeveldt, Dane Vilas, Francois Plaatjies, Justin Kemp, Lizaad Williams, Yaseen Vallie, Robin Peterson, Rory Kleinveldt, Siya Simetu, Sybrand Engelbrecht, Vernon Philander - Cape Times