Harare – SOUTH Africa’s sensational victory over Australia on Wednesday at the Harare Sports Club led to immediate comparisons with the famous “438” game eight years ago. One of the heroes of that marvellous day in Proteas’ cricket history was fast-bowler Makhaya Ntini for his late-cut down to third man in the final over.
As fate would have it, the now-retired 101-Test veteran was also present at the “328” run-chase as the ambassador for the Castle Supporters Tour group and shared his frank views on South Africa’s current One-Day bowling attack, a balmy night in Cape Town when he had Ricky Ponting’s Australians on the hop, and also Cricket South Africa’s new transformation policy relating specifically to black Africans.
1 How do you rate South Africa’s attack in one-day cricket?
MN: There are so many ways you can judge them. I think our line-up will always contain Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel as they have been doing well for so long on the highest stage. I think our concern is to find that consistent third/fourth seamer. I think we’re struggling to find the right combinations there.
You take Australia when they were at their peak, you had Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee operating together, and there were a host of guys who offered good support. My fear is when Dale or Morné do not strike, we are doomed as we are depending on two people only.
2 Vernon Philander has been ruled out through injury for this tri-series. Is he the possible solution for the third-seamer role?
I think one-day cricket is a completely different ball game to Test cricket where Vernon has been so successful.
In one-day cricket we need to do things differently because if he bowls the same length he does in Test cricket, the batsman can simply hit through the line as one-day wickets don’t offer the same assistance to the seamers. We should not be looking at Vernon and, instead, be trying to get the best out of Wayne Parnell and Kyle Abbott.
3 How do you rate the current Australian attack?
We are always comparing the South Africans and Australians because we have a similar sporting culture and support structures.
And, while they struggled against us, I do think the difference is that they are not afraid to blood new players. Their one-day attack is completely different to the Test attack and that will give them options in ways to improve all the time.
4 Are you excited by the return to fitness of Marchant de Lange?
South Africa are trying to grow their seam department with Marchant, (Mthokosizi) Shezi and new kid Kagiso Rabada coming through, so the fact that we have a group pushing gets me excited.
5 At one stage Lonwabo Tsotsobe was ranked the No1 bowler on the ICC one-day rankings. What has led to his slip down the ratings?
Lopsy …. hmmm. He has been injured, so that obviously hasn’t helped his cause. I don’t know how he is faring in his recovery, but he can’t just expect to come straight back in. He needs to have a hard look at himself because the gap is closing.
6 Tell us about that famous night at Newlands when you helped skittle the mighty Aussies for 93 and you claimed career-best figures of 6/22.
Heita my man! That is a night that never leaves my memory; it was so special. To bowl the Aussies out for under a 100 … that was incredible. Everything just clicked that night, my rhythm was great and the ball was swinging beautifully.
7 Can you explain the reasons why you were such a dangerous bowler to left-handers?
For me it was all about understanding my action, the way the ball came out my hand. I also concentrated a lot on finding the correct position to land at the crease at the point of my delivery. I looked at Shezi the other day and he needs work on his body position.
8 Vinnie Barnes was your bowling coach throughout your international career. What was your relationship with him?
We had a relationship based on trust. I communicated with him all the time. If I was bowling too full, or too short, I would always make eye-contact with Vinnie in the dressing-room during a spell. I would want him to check what was wrong with my action or something. For me, it was good to know Vinnie was around. I used to get him to come down from the dressing-room and stand by me at third-man or fine-leg and tell me what I was doing wrong. We would correct it in the game because I always felt comfortable talking to him.
9 Cricket South Africa have introduced a new transformation policy that will see two black Africans in every franchise playing XI next season. How do you feel about this policy?
Honestly, I have never been a fan of it. Fundamentally I believe it is wrong. Please understand me correctly here, this is my opinion, and first hear what I have to say. Are you saying that only 12 black Africans can play franchise cricket in South Africa after 21 years of unity? That is where we have failed. I am a big believer in merit selection and we haven’t done enough over the past 20 years to develop black African cricketers. My feeling is that by introducing this policy we are telling black African cricketers there are only two places for you. We should be telling them if you work and train hard, there are 11 places up for grabs, and not just two.
The whole mindset needs to change. Suddenly we are seeing franchise coaches running around looking for black African players.
10 Are you involved in any way in assisting the development of Black African cricket?
I have started a foundation in Mdantsane, outside East London, so that we can develop Black African cricket. Someone has to go out there, visit the schools and find the talent which I know is out there. We all know this is where players have always come from. The Cobras need players and Paul Adams knows where he will find them. - The Star