SA fast-bowling stocks running worryingly low for coach Conrad

Tristan Stubbs will receive an extended run in the Test whites under Shukri Conrad. | BackpagePix

Tristan Stubbs will receive an extended run in the Test whites under Shukri Conrad. | BackpagePix

Published Mar 6, 2024

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Tristan Stubbs will receive an extended run in the Test whites under Shukri Conrad. | BackpagePix

Ongama Gcwabe

WHEN lists of all-time fast-bowling greats are being drawn, it is hard to imagine one without a number of South African names in it.

As a country, South Africa has been blessed with the game’s finest fast bowlers, with an attitude to match the difficulty of the craft. To this day, the fast-bowling department is the strength of the Proteas Test team, with Kagiso Rabada leading the charge.

Gerald Coetzee. | BackpagePix

However, outside of Rabada, Marco Jansen, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Gerald Coetzee and Nandre Burger, the bowling stocks are drying out in the domestic scene and Test coach Shukri Conrad is concerned.

“If you look at the (CSA Four-Day Series) final that just took place now, I don’t think you saw anyone bowl above 136km/h and that is a massive concern, especially for a country like ours where we’ve always had good fast-bowling stocks,” Conrad told Independent Media in an exclusive interview.

“You take Nandre (Burger) out of that final, with respect to the guys that were playing, there was no pace.

“From the spinners’ point of view, outside of Keshav (Maharaj), what are our spinning stocks looking like? When conditions aren’t spin-friendly, will they be able to make a positive impact on the game?

“If I’m being brutally honest, the standards of our bowling as a collective is not strong. It makes it really tough to use the first-class game as the only benchmark or barometer for selecting batters.”

Contrary to the consistency of Test bowlers such as Rabada, the batting department has been the Achilles heel in the Proteas Test team since the retirements of elegant stroke makers and proven run getters such as Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers.

Test centuries have been an occasional sighting in the South African Test team in recent years. However, Conrad’s young bucks are now starting to look the part, at least on paper and will be tested for the duration of the World Test Championship.

Tony de Zorzi will opening the batting for the Proteas in Test matches. | BackpagePix

Conrad is confident that his latest finds Tony de Zorzi, Tristan Stubbs and David Bedingham are Test-cricket material. The 56-year-old confirmed that De Zorzi will replace Dean Elgar as an opener while Bedingham and Stubbs will complete the top order for the foreseeable future.

Conrad went on to clarify his position on the wicketkeeping role between Kyle Verreynne and Ryan Rickelton and said that Verreynne will take the gloves in the West Indies series in August.

The coach is also considering adding a genuine all-rounder to bat at No 7 and has thrown Wiaan Mulder’s name into the conversation for a potential return to the side.

“The plan was always for Tony to open the batting, so I will be surprised if he doesn’t open the batting when we kick off against the West Indies,” said Conrad.

“Our top order and middle order will be made up of the front two (Aiden Markram and De Zorzi) and then Temba Bavuma, Stubbs and Bedingham batting in there.

“I’ve always liked Stubbs, I think he’s got an excellent technique, he’s got a great temperament and he’s definitely going to be in the mix there. To complete our top six, is it Verreynne or Rickelton? I think Verreynne still has the lead when it comes to the wicketkeeping bit.

“We also need to give a genuine all-rounder a chance again because of the value it gives to our side. Plank (Marco Jansen) has made a lot of progress but in my mind I don’t think he’s a No7 just yet. So someone like Wiaan might come in.”

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