The SA way is to find a way: Ashwell Prince on Proteas challenges in England

FILE - Ashwell Prince during his time head coach of the Cape Cobras. Photo: Ryan Willkisky/BackpagePix

FILE - Ashwell Prince during his time head coach of the Cape Cobras. Photo: Ryan Willkisky/BackpagePix

Published Jul 17, 2022


Cape Town - Former Proteas batter Ashwell Prince played a pivotal role in South Africa achieving their first-ever series win in England post-isolation in 2008. Over the course of two Test series in the United Kingdom, the gritty lefthander averaged 54.66 and struck two centuries.

Equally, Prince enjoyed a hugely-successful English County Championship career with Lancashire and is regarded as a “Roses” legend after compiling a record 501-run partnership with fellow former Proteas batter Alviro Petersen.

Prince chats exclusively to IOL Sport’s Zaahier Adams about the challenges the Proteas face in their current tour of England in both the white-ball formats and the “Bazball” threat.

England have been the premier white-ball team in the world for the longest period. Can the Proteas match them?

I think it’s a good opportunity for them to go there and match themselves against the world champions. What you’re seeing from them in Test cricket now, they have been doing in white-ball cricket for some time now already. They have been the leaders in the world with this approach.

What makes England this good?

It’s a combination of the mindset and personnel. I don’t think there’s any international coach or captain that’s gonna be naive enough to say, “Right, we’re just gonna play this way”, without having the personnel and not having the batting depth to back it up.

England ODI captain Eoin Morgan recently retired. They have a new white-ball coach in Matthew Mott. Is this something the Proteas can capitalise on?

I don’t think much would’ve changed. Morgan was a great leader and would’ve instilled his style of leadership on the team, but I think the current captain Jos Buttler would have been one of the first players to buy into that brand and that type of thinking. Jos is probably at his best when he’s looking to be aggressive, so from Buttler’s point of view, I’m convinced that he wants to play the same brand.

The Proteas will be without their white-ball captain Temba Bavuma in England, due to injury.

How much will the team miss Bavuma?

I think he’s got a fantastic record in 50-overs cricket. He bats at the right tempo for 50 overs. It doesn’t require him to hit the ball out the ground as much as in T20s. I’m not fully aware of the magnitude of Temba’s influence in the dressing room, but there are experienced players such as David Miller and Keshav Maharaj, who can step up and take the captain’s role.

It’s been really hot in England recently. How does it influence the conditions?

When it’s hot in England, as it is at the moment, then the oneday pitches are really good and we can expect really big scores. The outfields also become a lot firmer and quicker.

We’ve already seen some big scores in the warm-up games.

Does this bring the Proteas’ spin twins Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi more into the contest?

If it’s dry, then it’s also rock hard, and then it’s pointless because it doesn’t turn much.

Looking ahead to the Test matches, England have undergone a revolution under coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes.

Can the Proteas counter “Bazball”?

The Test series is what I’m looking forward to the most. Of course, it’s my favourite format of the game, but a Test series in England is really something special. And it really is going to be something else the way England have been playing their new brand of cricket.

For me, the question is, can the Proteas make them doubt their new style of play? I hope you’re understanding what I am saying. They obviously have a new style of play and new philosophy.

Do the Proteas have the capacity to make them doubt their play?

They’re gonna come at you and they’re not gonna stop coming at you. They’ll take more risk than traditional Test teams, and that will put you under pressure. So the thing is, do you have the skill to transfer the pressure by taking four wickets with not a lot on the board. And then, the question will be posed, will England continue to play “Bazball” and keep going, or will they starting doubting their game plan under pressure.

The Proteas have been successful under captain Dean Elgar playing a completely contrasting style of Test cricket.

Do you think the winner of this series will set the template for the way Test cricket should be played?

No, no, no, no. I don’t think, I don’t believe that. Teams often do play in a way that is reflected in the personality of their leaders. I don’t think the Proteas are suddenly going to play “Bazball” under Dean Elgar. He plays his cricket a certain way that has brought him personal success. Also, the way I know the coach, Mark Boucher, is that he will back his team to deal with whatever situation that’s thrown at them and encourage his players to absorb the pressure. Don’t hit yourself out, rather be patient. Get through the difficult periods. Absolutely resolute, that’s the Boucher I know.

I think the South African way is to find a way, whatever the situation is.

And maybe people will call it conservative. But, when South Africa had to chase 400 in the past to win a Test match, we did that. And we needed to block out two days to save a Test, we did that. So, yeah whatever that situation is, our way is to be adaptable.