COLOMBO – Shukri Conrad once said batsmen should leave their bats behind and only take a broom along when touring the subcontinent.
While it was quite a flippant statement, and nothing less that can be expected from the current Cricket SA National Academy and former Cape Cobras coach, he was not suddenly expecting batsmen to morph into Liewe Heksie!
Conrad was referring to formulating successful gameplans against the turning ball over after over on slow, parched pitches with men crowded round the bat, waiting in anticipation of the slightest flaw of technique and mind.
Having nurtured this concept further on the CSA spin camps conducted in Mumbai every year, Conrad’s belief in the principle of utilising the sweep shot against spin has grown even stronger.
South Africa’s lone centurion during this ill-fated series, Theunis de Bruyn, seems to be a disciple of this gospel too after virtually sweeping his way to a maiden Test ton yesterday. It may then not be a coincidence that De Bruyn equalled Jonty Rhodes’ - arguably the pioneer of the sweep shot in South Africa - 101, the highest fourth innings score in Asia.
Equally, De Bruyn believes his own visit to the bustling Indian metropolis prior to arriving here in Sri Lanka was the ideal preparation for the series.
“Well I never swept until I went on a spin camp because it is very difficult to hit down the ground. You just have to back that option. Back home you don’t need that shot on the bouncier wickets because you can play spinners down the ground and use your feet. Here it becomes quite difficult, so you know they're bowling in a good area and the wickets don’t bounce as much, so that’s a better option.”
De Bruyn was certainly confident in getting down on bended knee, with his very first scoring shot on Sunday being a boundary through mid-wicket.
“For me, it was important to get the fielders out on the boundary, early on - especially with the new ball. If you’re just defending, it can be difficult. So if you put the bowlers slightly under pressure, you can get the fielders out. I didn’t know it was going to take that long to get a hundred. They just don’t let you go. They keep on bowling very accurately. It’s Test cricket. It’s not easy,” he said.
The confidence and ultimate success from De Bruyn, and later Temba Bavuma (63) was in stark contrast to the rest of the Proteas batsmen, in particular Quinton de Kock. The latter was meant to attend the spin camp too but was forced to withdraw due to injury.
De Bruyn relished the opportunity of coming it at No 3 in this final Test.
“As a team, it wasn’t special, but for me it was special.”