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Q&A with Neil: post-ODI series

With South Africa having comprehensively outplayed Bangladesh in both the test and ODI series, we have thought it a good time to rope in Neil Manthorp for another Q&A session.

We've received Neil's answers, so get yourselves a collective cuppa, sit back and enjoy!

The question and answer session has closed.

Questions and answers
Nafis asked:
What do you think about South Africa visiting Bangladesh?
The result will be same on different side???
Is modern day cricket completely home biased?
Neil answered:
Nafis, lovely to get a question from Dhaka, thank you for writing in! You don’t need to speculate. Bangladesh beat SA 2:1 in the ODI series in your beautiful country a couple of years ago and had the better of the very limited time we had during the Test series in between monsoon rains. Of course Bangladesh are an outstanding force in world cricket – in home conditions – and they need to have more invitations to play in foreign conditions to be competitive on their travels. Yes, of course I think the games and results would have been different if they had been played in Dhaka and Chittagong!
ruschdi masoet asked:
What does our test team look like when AB returns to the line-up?

Elgar, Markram, Faf, Hash, AB, QDK, Pilander, Phehlukwayo, Mahraj, Rabada, Morkel/Steyn


Elgar, Markram, Faf, Hash, AB, Buvuma, QDK, Pilander, Mahraj, Rabada, Morkel/Steyn???

A bowler short here?
Neil answered:
It's a straight-forward choice between four bowlers or five. Most of South Africa’s success in the last decade has come with playing a specialist batsman at number seven but they could afford to do that because they had the great Jacques Kallis and AB was keeping wicket so effectively they had a 13 man team! I believe that Ottis Gibson favours the four bowler approach (three seamers and a spinner) but that depends on the three seamers being able to bowl up to 25 overs per day. You can’t have someone like Vernon Philander bowling 15 or 16 and being an injury risk.
Ashley asked:
Hi Neil.
Brilliant display by our team against Bangladesh... you can only play whats in front of you & they comprehensively thrashed their opponents. We seem to have our best batting line up sorted with Markram & Bavuma keeping the pressure on any non performers going forward. The selection poser is with the makeup of the allrounders & bowlers. Assuming KG & Tahir are walk ins courtesy of their excellent performances - assuming all are 100% fit who out of the following makes it & who loses out: Phehlukwayo; Pretorius; Morris; Morkel; Keshav and when who is Ngidi fit again? Many Thanks
Neil answered:
I honestly don’t believe that there is a “first XI” in ODI cricket any longer. All the players you mention are current certainties for a squad place, fitness permitting. It just depends who may be carrying a niggle or what the conditions are like on the day. Sometimes it is even just the coaches gut feel. Ngidi is fit right now as his six wickets against the Lions on Monday proved.
Ian asked:
Vernon Philander is our best seam bowler and it occurs to me and others that he might benefit from a strict eating plan. A LCHF diet would surely benefit Vernon. Does the cricket team have a dietician and do the players have eating plans and the will to follow them?
Neil answered:
Ian, you are straying in to sensitive territory and a subject I am loathed to discuss in a public forum! Obviously Vern has been carrying a couple of unwanted kilos in recent years, that’s obvious for all to see. But the has trimmed down considerably during his latest rehab and has taken management criticism very much to heart. Obviously the squad have access to the best dietary and lifestyle advice but they do not have a full time dietician.
Francesco asked:
Howzit Neil,

Rather disappointing series was it not?
Anyway, for the purpose of this question I will assume that all bowlers currently recovering from injury, (Steyn, Philander, Morkel) will be available for selection. Considering the impossible task of replacing Kallis and the success attained when De Kock batted at 7 with 4 bowlers, is it not best for the Proteas to return to this set up?
It was changed in England and De Kock has not performed as well up the order and nor has the team. With de Villiers back at 4, Bavuma 6, de Kock 7, the above mentioned quicks plus Rabada and Maharaj, who is capable of bowling plenty overs, the team is balanced in a much better way than trying to force the all rounder issue when we do not have a genuine one at the moment. Yes batting heavy, but that is not really a bad thing, and surely between Markram, Elgar, Bavuma, they can send down some overs if the situation requires it, as generally in Test cricket if the 4 front line bowlers are not capable of picking up 20 wickets, then the Test is not really going your way is it? The great teams played 4 bowlers, West Indies with their quicks, Australia with Gilchrist at 7 and some dibbly dobblies from the Waugh brothers, makes sense to me. What do you think?
Best Regards
Neil answered:
Hi Fancesco, I believe your thought process is shared by the captain, senior players and management. I understand Ottis Gibson is of a like mind as well. There is a great desire to play an all-rounders but, as you say, you can not force the issue. The problem is having three seamers who are fit, strong and dependable enough to be able to bowl up to 25 overs a day without being an injury risk. Convenient as it would be to have Vern batting at number 8 he can’t have an upper limit of 16 overs per day.
Andre asked:
Our batting seems to be coming right , I still however have concern on bowling , we were always a country of top class bowling only Rabada and Tahir that have any experience .Glad we are giving some youngsters opportunity and hopefully thats end to Parnells 100 chances and end to his contract with CSA .Lucky we were playing Bangaledesh i believe if we had better opposition we would not have bowled them out . your thoughts
Neil answered:
Much as we would like to think our team can be ruthless and unforgiving against any opposition, it is extremely difficult to be so against a team as embarrassingly weak as this Bangladesh one has been. Unusually Faf du Plessis even admitted that he felt sorry for them at times. I don’t think there was a problem with the Proteas bowling. Actually, I thought it was quite good.
Wasim asked:
Hi Neil,

My comments and questions relate to our domestic system. We currently have 6 franchises with each having to field 3 black players as part of quotas. I''d like to ask what is your thoughts of there being a 7th franchise as I feel the system has room for another team. I look at the last round of fixtures and players like Stiaan Van Zyl, Qaasim Adams, Aaron Phangiso, Shamsi etc. are not playing for their franchises and its a waste of those talented players as the odd game here and there is not going to allow them to grow to their full potential as players. There are others as well so I''d like to read your thoughts on this?
Neil answered:
Wasim, you make a very good point - it is a subject which has been very much on the CSA discussion table recently. The committee appointed to review the domestic playing structure actually recommended the addition of two franchises to the current system but the CSA Board declined to implement the change. Money was the main reason even though there was over R600 million in the CSA reserve at the time. Little did we know that the collapse of the Global League would cost about R200 million so, from a financial point of view it turned out to be a good decision. But from a playing perspective there is no doubt we do not have enough opportunities for our best players on a regular basis.
Teko asked:
Makram our future Captain ? Following footsteps of Smith, your thoughts on how good this young man will become ?
Neil answered:
I am absolutely not going to make any predictions about Markram and I am certainly not going to label his as the ‘next’ anybody. It is obvious to anybody who knows the game and has seen him play that he may enjoy a long and successful international career but lets allow him to make a bit more progress without burdening him with the weight of our expectations. Same applies with the captaincy. Graeme Smith was a one-off. How about Bavuma does the job for a couple of years while Markram finds his way around?
Garfield Prinsloo asked:
With the exception of David Miller, who in the Proteas ODI squad can consistently “finish” off an innings? We often get into good positions around the 30-35 over mark, but all-too-often the last 10 overs of our innings somehow fizzles out, and causes a shift in momentum away from us. The current crop of Behardien, Phehlukwayo, Duminy, Mulder, etc all seem to be run-a-ball kind of players, when more is required in those crucial batting overs. The other top sides around the world all bat long, and bat big at the business-end of an innings. Can the current guys turn a good score into a winning one, and on the biggest stage of all - the 2019 CWC ?
Neil answered:
I suggest you do a bit more research Garfield. Have a look at the list ‘most runs in last 10 overs’ in ODIs and you will see it is dominated by South Africa. How can you include Wiaan Mulder in your list? He has only played one game! And your comment about the other top sides is bizarre - Australia’s tail begins at number five. Or perhaps you don’t include them as a top side anymore. Fair enough.
Prinesh asked:
Honest question - do we really need JP anymore, at all? His "off-spinners" are non-existent and there are younger batsmen who definitely won''t do much worse than him... Fudgy is that ugly duckling that somehow keeps his spot. I''d keep Fudge, drop JP and bring in Markram. Heck... I''d go with Mulder and Andile over Pretorius and Morris :-) The youth just seem less jaded. What are your thoughts Manners?
Neil answered:
JP is under pressure and nobody knows that better than he does. He’ll need some big performances to show that he still has what international cricket requires. I like Mulder and Phehlukwayo, too, but I cannot possibly agree that Pretorius and Morris are in any way "jaded".
Johann asked:
Hi Neil

Thank you for your Q&A as well as your tour Diary.

You made a comment in your diary about the state of Bloemfontein. The reality is our local counsel is on the verge of a collapse but at least we have the best floodlights in the country for a T20 that will hopefully be competitive!!!
Neil answered:
Sorry for any offense caused in my diary - I would love to see Bloemfontein running properly again without piles of rubbish on the streets. Fantastic flood lights, aren’t they?! Brightest in the country - almost too bright… they gave me a headache during the test match. Just a pity they were erected for a tournament which no longer exists.
Molefi asked:
Hi Neil

Two questions.

1. Temba or Aiden for JP - your take please.
2. Do you think Ottis should keep the current coaching team or he must bring his own coaching staff?
Neil answered:
1. Either. Probably Bavuma because he has been in the queue for longer and because of what he provides in the field.
2. It’s not right or reasonable to expect Gibson to inherit the entire support staff. At the very least he will want, and should have, his own right-hand man but he will effect change gradually and with as little disruption as possible.
Brian asked:
Hi Neil, the test side batting lineup has a very strong look about it now, with the return of Ab and also the promising start to test cricket by Aiden Markrem. But given the recent history of injuries to our quicks, do you think we need to consider dropping Bavuma, moving de Kock up to 6 and making space for a bowling allrounder, someone like Wian Mulder possibly?
Neil answered:
Selection is more of an issue now than it has been for many years. Did we all really appreciate how lucky we were to have Jacques Kallis and AB batting in the top six? I doubt it. Now we are finally beginning to appreciate it. I would be loathe to drop Bavuma. He brings a great deal more to the team than his batting average. And Wiaan Mulder needs to play more first-class cricket before being thrown into the deep end of Test cricket. In my humble opinion…
Richard Mackie asked:
Hi Neil,
What are your thoughts on the state of franchise cricket? I am of the opinion that we should create 2 additional teams, one in East
London and one in Paarl/Kimberly. This would increase the player pool for white and non white and make the player target less of an issue by having potential Protea''s not being able to find a place in a provincial team. I also feel that if CSA were to appoint the coaches and support staff for the franchises, they could focus on giving new coaches (black and white) a chance to grow whilst being deputies to experienced coaches, for instance Makhaya Ntini with somebody like Richard Pybus/Russel Domingo in East London. Interesting to get your thoughts?


Richard Mackie
Neil answered:
I have answered this question already but you have given me the opportunity to restate my opinion – our domestic structure definitely needs two more teams. From a cricketing perspective, I haven’t heard many dissenting voices. It’s a question of financial sustainability. The SA Cricketers Association has worked tirelessly to create player wage structure which actually allows professionals to make a living from the game. That would obviously need to be maintained with two extra Franchises. Then there is the cost to CSA of their fixtures, flights, accommodation etc etc. That could all have been managed before the R200 million collapse of the Global League.
Jacob Small asked:
Hi Neil
This entire tour has been horribly one-sided with very few moments from the tourists that will stand out in the memory. Should we as fans not be expecting more from a large and supposedly cricket-loving nation like Bangladesh? They seem to be carrying the minnows tag forever without kicking on to the next level.
Neil answered:
I am one of Bangladesh Cricket’s greatest supporters. I have been shocked and disappointed by their performances on this tour. Their results in both Test and ODI cricket over the last three years suggested so much more. But look at how many tours they have made to SA, England and Australia in the last 15 years. Seriously, they can’t compete in such alien conditions if they only get to play a couple of games every seven years. Hopefully the Test and ODI championships will level the playing field a little bit…
Riaan asked:
Hi Neil, thanks for taking time to chat to us.
Like many a year before, we look extremely well in years before a world cup, claiming No 1 spot time and time again. In my view some selection issues will still work themselves out before 2019, but what will Gibson and Faf''s goals / approach be for the next two years? I suppose I''ll be rich if I knew the answer, but what has been lacking in our previous Silverware-quests?
Neil answered:
Ah, Riaan. If only I had a rand for every time I’ve been asked this question over the last two decades. As far as I can see, everything has been tried. So the only answer is to keep trying. The majority of problems have been mental, or psychological, rather than technical or skill-related. But I’m not sure that mind-gurus are the answer. Hopefully the answer will be having a Barbadian as coach who won’t automatically be affected by the tension and weight of expectation which come so easily and painfully to us. Seriously, as good a coach as he is, one of his greatest assets is not being South African.
Tony Da Silva asked:
Hi Neil.

As usual thank you for your time taking our questions as well as your usual coverage of the cricket.

I don''t think We should get to ahead of ourselves with the results. Yes they can only play who is in front of them and they had to and did put Bangladesh away comprehensively.

They could use this as a confidence booster after what was a really bad tour to England, to find some form and blood some younger players.

On this Markham is looking the real deal. Again it is only a couple of matches and Bangladesh but through the Tests and ODI I think the importance of good opening stands was highlighted and shows where SA have been weak for a while. In Markham they have a youngster who can be invested in and seems that he has future leader potential as well.

Hopefully Wiaan Mulder can be a long term solution to out batting all rounder balance to the team.

Are we really covered in terms of Depth in our bowling department? Strike bowlers that is. Morkel till he got injured and Rabada took most of the wickets. Steyn is yet to prove he can come back and if he does for how long and if he has lost pace will he be effective. Big Vern is on the mend and Morkel to and both of them do not have long careers left either.

And then De Velliers coming back. He is a batting genius who should always be in the team if fit. BUT where does he come in and for who? How long is he going to be committed to test cricket this time round. We know about his desire to win the next world cup. And a difficult question is it fair to come in for someone who has wanted to play for their country in the last year or so?

Thank you

Neil answered:
Hi Tony, much to answer there. You only have to look at guys like Lungi Ngidi to know that there are fast bowlers coming through the system. Maybe not as many as we would like, but there is depth and promise for the future. Sometimes I fear we are slightly too obsessed with the future. If Dale Steyn has 18 months left at the highest level then South Africa can still dominate world cricket in that time. Same with Vern and Morne. Rabada…well, who knows what he can achieve in his lifetime. Fitness and strength will be the key. My only problem with AB’s mini-sabbatical was how he explained it and expressed himself. It sounded confused. He deserved the break and earned it. If someone wants to come forward and say “I deserve to play instead of him because I am better” then I’d challenge him to do so.
Sabela Dondi asked:
Hi Niel

Who do you think is the best cricketer in the world at the moment?

Neil answered:
Wow Sabela, tough question. That implies all-rounder. I would have said Ben Stokes but he isn’t much use if he ends up in jail. And which format? The best all round batsman at the moment is probably Joe Root or Kane Williamson, but AB will reclaim that position when he starts playing Tests again. Best bowler in all formats and all conditions…Mitchell Starc?
Vongani asked:
AB played brilliantly for his century. Why did we tamper with his position on the 3rd ODI and you have new guys batting ahead of him ? For AB to come in with 10 overs remaining its a waste of resources.He should be facing as many balls as possible. Batting at No 3 i believe will be the best possible position for him. He is best player in the world and i don''t get the logic of protecting him from the new ball or whatever the reason is. We all know what damage he can do if he can bat like 30 overs.
Neil answered:
Nobody was ‘protecting’ AB from anything. It was a matter of giving different players the opportunity. We all know what AB is capable of and he doesn’t need to prove anything to anybody. We need to develop the next generation. What would we have achieved by sending AB in at number three against a demoralised Bangladesh in the 3rd ODI? What would we have learned about Markram if AB had come in and scored 200? It would have been highly entertaining, no doubt, but it would have been counter-productive in the long run.
Ramble asked:
Neil, do you think there is a possibility of SA fielding an all-pace quartet in the coming series against the Indians, provided Steyn is fit? Maharaj doesn''t deserve to be dropped, and probably won''t be, but given that de Kock is a top order batman they could pick an extra batsman at 7 to allow the four quicks, or even an all rounder to give a 5th bowling option (Morris if available). Or do modern tactics dictate that there must be a spinner for variety, relief and over rates? Do the Indian team even merit thinking in that way, given that most of their batsmen seem more comfortable against pace than in the past?
Neil answered:
If Maharaj was just an ordinary left arm spinner then you might have a point. But he was quicker and more economical to 50 Test wickets than Shane Warne. He is not just a special talent, but a versatile and durable one, too. He can change his method of operation and also bowl 30 overs a day. At this stage he’s just behind Amla, Du Plessis and Rabada when it comes to team selection. Unless there is a blindingly green pitch somewhere on which it is obvious that a result will be achieved in three days by fast bowlers, Keshav will be selected.

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