Johannesburg - In Australia they are trying to manage the fall out from the previous coach’s anger with some of the national team’s senior players, which may come as music to the ears of the Proteas.
The brotherhood of the “Baggy Green” is looking a bit fragile at the moment after former coach Justin Langer lashed out at what he described as “cowards” in the Australian team, with current captain Pat Cummins believed to be the focus of Langer’s ire.
It has led to Cricket Australia’s chief executive, Nick Hockley, issuing a defence of the organisation and the players while adding that he was “disappointed by Justin's comments unfairly criticising some of our players.”
How much of a distraction this will be for the Australians - and Cummins, who is very much the blue-eyed boy of the sport in that country - remains to be seen. Langer is part of the television commentary team for international matches Down Under, starting with the two Tests the Australians play from next week against the West Indies and then the three-match series with South Africa that begins on December 17.
It’s very far from turmoil, and the players will be grateful for the opportunity to get on the field next week, but any sense of disunity in the opposition ranks is something the South Africans would do well to utilise in the build up.
The Proteas know they will face a heap of scrutiny as is always the case in Australia, with their own recent failing at the T20 World Cup and the nature of it, likely to be thrown back at them, along with the sandpaper saga and possibly the whole mint spiel too.
SA’s own house is of course in a state of some disarray, with an interim coach, in Malibongwe Maketa, overseeing the team for the tour. The form in particular of the batters is a concern, which is why last week’s CSA 4-Day Series success for skipper Dean Elgar, who scored a hundred and the double centuries for Kyle Verreynne and Heinrich Klaasen, would have eased some of Maketa’s stress.
It will be a case of “more of the same please” from Maketa, with the addition of the bowlers - who sat out last week’s round of four-day series matches - adding extra spice to the set of fixtures that start Thursday morning.
Elgar and Klaasen will be at the Wanderers for the Titans, who take on the (Gauteng) Lions, in what is usually a feisty derby. There are enough fast bowlers on show to ensure batting won’t be as comfortable as was the case in many of the matches last week.
With Sisanda Magala now abiding by CSA’s fitness standards, the Lions boast the same four quicks that lit up the early stages of last season. The Titans have some good weapons too with Lungi Ngidi hoping to get into some rhythm, while Lizaad Williams will want to show his call up for the Australia tour party in place of Glenton Stuurman is justified.
“It’s always a boost to have your Proteas back in the side, It’s good for team morale and it’s good for the team environment. We believe having Lungi back in this team environment will allow him to do what he enjoys, which is take wickets which will no doubt benefit the team going forward,” said Titans coach Mandla Mashimbyi.
Both teams earned comfortable wins last week; the Lions over the North West Dragons, while the Titans needed three days to beat the Knights.
The four-day competition goes on hiatus after this week’s round of matches and will resume in February. While the Proteas are in Australia, the CSA One-Day Cup, will be played next month.
DIVISION 1 FIXTURES:
Lions vs Titans, Wanderers; Dolphins vs Rocks, Kingsmead; WP vs Knights, Newlands; Warriors vs North West Dragons, St George’s Park.