CAPE TOWN - South Africa has recently enjoyed significant growth in its spin bowling stocks across the various formats.
Imran Tahir is unquestionably the leading “white-ball” slow bowler in world cricket at the moment, with the leg-spinner top of the ICC rankings in both ODI and T20 cricket.
The Proteas Test side also seems to have finally settled on a spinner in the longest format, with Keshav Maharaj rising to prominence during the recent New Zealand series where he was the leading South African bowler across the three matches.
But it is not just the incumbents who are excelling - a host of spinners have maintained the high level in domestic cricket too. Tabraiz Shamsi was desperately unlucky to miss out on selection for the ICC Champions Trophy next month, while his Titans teammate Shaun von Berg continues to rip through batting line-ups in both the Sunfoil Series (32 wickets at 18.93) and Momentum One-Day Cup (15 wickets at 18.53).
And let's not forget Cape Cobras captain Dane Piedt, who could return to international duty this winter, after being included in the Proteas Test squad for the much-anticipated England tour.
A major reason for the South African spin cupboard being well stocked is due to Cricket South Africa’s commitment to sending a group of bowlers, batsmen and coaches to a “spin camp” in India or Sri Lanka regularly over the past few years to undergo coaching with local experts.
The latest group returned on Monday from Mumbai, with South Africa A coach Shukri Conrad, who accompanied the players, along with former Proteas left-arm spinner Robin Peterson and SA Under-19 coach Lawrence Mahatlane.
“From a playing perspective, we wanted to expose our players to the Indian conditions, giving them an insight into what touring India is all about. The searing heat and the pitch conditions. I think it’s a big thing learning to bowl on turning pitches. A mindset needs to change when bowling on wickets that turn," Conrad said.
"We were also exposed to a few coaches from India. I was highly impressed with them. I wanted to share ideas and thoughts with their coaches. From every perspective they were outstanding. Sairaj Bahutule, Vikram Rathour and Amol Muzumdar.
"The good thing about those coaches is that they've came through the grind of the first-class game and were fortunate enough to play with the superstars of Indian cricket. It was hugely enriching for everyone concerned. You might obviously not see the rewards immediately, but over time there would be things that stuck which they will implement.”
There’s little doubt young cricketers such as Cobras spin duo Kyle Simmonds and George Linde, along with Jeppe Boys High schoolboy Khaudise Molefe and Fort Hare Academy learner Tsepo Ndwandwa would have benefited greatly from the experience.
“I’d like to think the young players would have seen the amount of hard work that a player at the top needs to put in to be successful," added Conrad. "I think, in terms of their own preparation, they would have taken a lot from it. They’ve been left with a programme to continue the work.
“But for a guy like Dane Piedt I think sometimes when you get left out, players search everywhere (for answers). So, it’s maybe a good thing to take the player out of his environment and get him to talk to players it’s happened to before. Just to get away, work on a few technical things... those things can be worked on free from the ‘noise’. And I like to think we worked on them over in Mumbai.”