Proteas tap into top experience ahead of first Test
JOHANNESBURG - Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher have drawn on as much experience as possible for the South African squad to tap into ahead of next week’s first Test against England.
The preparation for the high-profile four-match Test series that starts at SuperSport Park on Boxing Day, has been haphazard through no fault of Smith or Boucher. But they are seeking to make the best of a very bad situation and given there is so little time to prepare the team, roping in former players Jacques Kallis and Charl Langeveldt seems like a logical step.
Langeveldt, who played 87 international matches including six Tests, will be the bowling coach after cutting short his contract with the Bangladesh team where he was performing the same role. Kallis, who played more than 500 international matches, will come on board for the remainder of the season as the batting consultant.
Throw in Boucher’s more than 400 internationals and that represents a lot of experience for the Proteas to call upon as they seek to turn around their fortunes. Even the six uncapped players in the squad are not complete greenhorns, and each has a decade’s worth of first-class experience to call on. That is a key part in understanding what Smith, as interim director of cricket and Boucher has head coach of the national side are trying to do.
The Proteas started a training camp in Centurion yesterday, with the players needing to form bonds with the new head coach.
One of South Africa’s greatest fast bowlers, Allan Donald, described Langeveldt’s appointment as a wise decision.
“He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t say much in team meetings, he does all his work on the training ground. He is unassuming, moves under the radar and connects well one-on-one. That’s where he gets the best out of his bowlers,” said Donald.
Langeveldt was highly regarded for his skill as a bowler, and in transitioning to coaching his technical aptitude has received similar praise.
Donald, who claimed 330 wickets in 72 Tests, feels that despite concerns expressed privately within CSA’s high performance structures about the low bowling loads among the Proteas’ seamers after six weeks of T20 cricket, they should be able to get up to speed by the first Test. “The modern day guys adapt very well because they play so much,” he said. “It can sometimes take a little while to settle into the red ball game, but I think they should do so easily.”
Of much greater concern to Donald is the team’s overall confidence and how the Proteas’ batsmen will cope against England potent seam bowling line-up.
“This team needs confidence,” he said. “I felt, watching them in India, they were constantly looking around for someone to give them that confidence. How are we going to get that confidence back, against an attack that has Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, even Mark Wood? We are going to be severely tested.”@shockerhess