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Post test-series Q&A with Neil

Neil Manthorp hosted a Question & Answer session following the conclusion of the three-test series between England and South Africa.

Thanks to everyone who participated. Keep your eyes peeled for our next session.

The question and answer session has closed.

Questions and answers
Kirk Lawler asked:
Hi Neil, whew what a series, great cricket. What would you say to the naysayers (Shane Warne, Michael Atherton etc.) who said that SA were arrogant / under-prepared in their preparation and that England would easily beat us in this series ?
Neil answered:
I’m not sure they actually said that, but they were certainly more inclined towards England than South Africa. I particularly enjoyed the ‘undercooked’ stuff. Michael Vaughan was another who said SA were ‘bound to struggle’ having played so little cricket before the first Test. But Gary Kirsten always said that the best preparation takes place in the head and those of us who know the players saw a very, very well prepared team.
denver asked:
Hi Neil
Congratulations to the mighty proteas!just 1 question.seing that jaques rudolph struggled on this tour and the previous series against the ausies is his place in danger and if so will jp duminy fill his place at 6 cause I think jp is in form at the moment and thami will get his chance as AB is struggling to bat and keep?
Neil answered:
Everybody is very keen to keep things the way they are. I’m not sure Rudolph ‘struggled’ – he made some very important runs at vital times. Do you think AB struggled with the bat? They made similar scores. Interestingly, AB has been speaking in recent days about how much he enjoyed keeping in the Test matches. We have all assumed that Thami would inherit the role in the long run, but I have a feeling that AB may well keep the gloves in Australia. When you win a series 2-0 you’re not inclined towards changing the personnel
Aidan Naude asked:
First question to Neil. Can someone explain how-come the umpires for the test series seemed to be favouring the home side with all dismissals that we took. No-balls were checked for each time we took a wicket , this was not the case when they took wickets against us. I have lived in London for 14 years and I now can understand why the Indians hate the system and refuse the method when playing test cricket. Am i missing something? Or are there certain guidelines I have missed out on.
Neil answered:
It may have looked biased to you but I’m not sure it was. Actually, I’m sure it wasn’t. Morne bowls perilously close to the popping crease almost all the time and umpires are constantly worried about whether he has overstepped. When he takes a wicket they are inclined to check. The same applies to all bowlers who are consistently close to over-stepping. In my opinion, the DRS is the best innovation to have taken place in cricket – ever. Perhaps you would like us to go back to two stumps and a curved bat?
Myles asked:
Don''t you think Smithy should have bowled Duminy with Tahir for an extended period before the new ball to get through the overs more quickly, creating more pressure for England to score quicker at the end? We were forced to get 20 wickets - which we did thankfully!
Neil answered:
A lot of people have asked that question. I thought Smith was remarkably courageous. I sat in the press box watching Matt Prior’s extraordinary assault on Tahir saying to myself “don’t crack, Graeme, don’t crack!” Eventually I cracked before the captain and for a couple of overs I was saying “take him off, give J-P a bowl!” But the captain stuck to his specialist to do a specialists job. He reasoned, quite rightly, that it was impossible for Prior to keep playing like that – he was bound to make a mistake. And remember, Tahir may not have taken a pile of wickets but he bowled exactly what his captain asked him to, so in that sense he performed brilliantly under the most extreme pressure.
Michael asked:
Victory was all the sweeter now living in the UK for the next few years!

Looking ahead, do you see any young players coming through in particular who could push the established guys for starting positions? Are there plans in place to gradually give them some exposure? Who will the next JK be?

Considering how AUS and India are feeling the effects of losing so many established stars over the last few years I thought SA''s future was worth considering.

Thanks for finding the time to reply to these ques
Neil answered:
The point about this team is how young everyone is! Ordinarily a team reached this point – undisputed world number one – with half a dozen players in their mid 30s. Apart from Kallis, who is defying the ageing process, there are only three players beyond 30 – Petersen and Smith (both 31) and Tahir (33). So you really shouldn’t be concerned about youngsters being given a chance, they’re already in the team – they’re just really experienced youngsters! And please, please don’t ask about the ‘next’ JK. There will never be another one. Never. And if you burden anyone with that label you will make their career impossible because they can only fail.
Niven balraj asked:
Do we really need Imran Tahir as a spinner in the team?

Duminy and Rudolf can do the same job as Tahir is doing. We can strengthen the batting line-up if Tahir is dropped. Tradionally, SA has not produced brilliant spinners. Tahir is no exeption. He almost cost SA the game with his legstump theory. Duminy balls wicket taking deliveries which was needed. Lets strengthen team with a batting allrounder .

Niven Balraj, Doha Qatar
Neil answered:
Strengthen the batting? You want to strengthen the batting? So you think the batting is a bit weak with J-P coming in at seven, do you? Tahir was bowling to a plan  - the captain’s plan. He was doing as he was asked to do. I’ve never, ever seen a batsman play so many reverse sweeps, so successfully, as Matt Prior did on that last afternoon at Lord’s. Give credit to the batsman, seriously. As for J-P and Jacques Rudolph doing the spinning, that would demean the team which has just become number one in the world. No great team has ever had part-timers doing a specialist’s job
Riaan asked:
Hi Neil.
Can you maybe jog my memory. When Boucher entered the fray as a young upcoming keeper, was he at that time a shoe-in or did we "gamble" on talent a bit?
Did his first class stats really pick themselves? Reason I''m asking is because I don''t see why we are not picking a young talented wicky now, even if he doesn''t average 50 first class. I personally (only my opinion) do not like us picking a 31 year old, how long will he really be the answer? In stead, why not back a youngster until he grows into a formidable force. If I look at all the great teams, is it really coincidence that they had set, awesome keepers? (Healy, Alec Stuart, Gilly, Bouch, Prior, Moin Kahn, Dohni, I''ll even include Flower, the list goes on) Your thoughts. Thanks
Neil answered:
Yes, Boucher certainly was a gamble – Nic Pothas was probably the more ‘obvious’ choice back in 1998. But that doesn’t mean you should gamble again just because it worked 15 years ago! Sometimes you gamble because you have to, or because you feel the ‘safe’ route isn’t dynamic enough. Who do you have in mind? Is there a 19-year-old out there who is calling attention to himself, a youngster who screams ‘big match temperament’ as Boucher did? But AB will keep the gloves for as long as he wants them – and he surprised himself with how much he enjoyed the Test series in England.
Raymond asked:
Considering the current crop of players is very similar to the players that Mickey Arthur had, the two major changes are Philander and the Coach Gary Kirsten. Is philander the completion to the puzzle or is Kirsten the Coaching Genius?
Neil answered:
Kirsten is at the front of the queue to tell anyone who cares to listen that he is not a genius. But it was him who recognised Philander’s skills and insisted that he would be a wonderful Test match bowler. Kirsten had some brilliant players in the Indian team and there are more in the South African team. Both sides, however, had a reputation for underperforming as a team. It is surely no coincidence that all the individuals in both sides are playing well at the same time under his guidance. He may say he’s no genius but history may judge him differently in the years to come…
Nobubele asked:
I believe the test team is more balanced than odi''s + England have recently beaten us both home and away. Realistically will the coach & captain be as confident in limited overs as the were in the tests?
Neil answered:
‘Balance’ is completely different in the two forms of the game. The ODI team selected in Cardiff had batting down to number nine (with apols to Morne who can also bat at number 10!) and seven bowling options. What’s not ‘balanced about that? England, on the other hand, had Tim Bresnan down to bat at number seven. In my opinion, the Proteas had far more depth. We’ll see – but if I was a betting man I’d be putting my money on green rather than blue. Happily, though, it’s staying in my wallet. What’s left of it.
Juan asked:
Obviously it is a proud moment for Cricket SA, the nation and players. My question is, taken the current age average of the national team, how long do you think we will be able to dominate world test cricket. I know we are blessed in depth within South Africa, but you have to agree Amla, Smith, Styen, Philander, De Villiers and co are once in a life time players. Much like the McGrath, Warne, Waugh, Slater era. I know we have still some time before thinking about this, but would be interesting to read your views.

But wow what an achievement for SA!
Neil answered:
Five years. Apart the great Kallis, this team could stay top of the pile for half a decade. I just feel sorry for the long list of people who get saddled with the allrounder’s place when Kallis retires. But SA have  the luxury of being able to play an extra bowler in Kallis’s place because AB, if he keeps the gloves, bats in the top five. If there is nobody to do a genuine all rounder’s job then the team should stick with specialists – six batsmen (including AB) and five bowlers.
steven asked:
Interesting to see how few test matches the Proteas play compared to the other top teams if you look at the rankings. Has this allowed us to focus on the series more than other teams who are more busy? What else can we make of this?

Maybe someone at SA Rugby should take note!
Neil answered:
We only play less than three countries – England and Australia (who play ten Ashes Tests every two years!) and India (who control the international game’s finances.) The Future Tours Programme is a complete mess and makes absolutely no common sense, only financial sense. Don’t even waste your time trying to understand it.
SHAUN asked:
Good Day
Neil, im sure you are very pleased with what happend up in England. My question to you is do you think Philander will be effective in sub continent conditions were there is not much seem assistance? i did notice in the first test mostly that if the wicket does not offer seem assistance he does lack venom and simply just pushes the ball through, something like Albie Morkel perhaps would do. I love how he won it for us however, can he do it for us without the pitches help?
Neil answered:
Philander will always be troublesome to batsmen because of the line he bowls and the fact that he swings the ball as well as seams it. When a bowler makes the batsman play at so many balls close to his off stump he is bound to make mistakes. The ball swings in the subcontinent (especially reverse swing) and BigVern has most of the tools of the trade at his disposal. He even bowls a good, surprise bouncer. He’s not going to take wickets at an average of 15 in the subcontinent, but he’ll still take wickets.
Dave Skinner asked:
Considering that Philander was our best bowler why didn''t Graeme use him when all the bowlers were being dispatched.I think Philander got his fiver in spite of Graeme Smith
Neil answered:
Dave, Dave…sorry, but that’s very silly. Philander was being saved for the second new ball when everyone else was being carted around Lord’s. One of the reasons Matt Prior went bersek was because he knew Philander and the new ball were just half a dozen overs away and that run scoring would be practically impossible against that combination. Pay attention, Dave
Shaun Mdlongwa asked:
Hie Neil,do you think resting Kallis is a great ideal,shouldnt he be with the guys preparing for the short format of the game(t20 world cup) after test matches
Neil answered:
Resting Kallis is an excellent idea – and you’d better get used to it because it’s going to happen more and more between now and the 2015 World Cup. He’ll be back in England for the three T20s at the end of the tour. Right now he’s in New York, visiting America for the first time
Renier Fourie asked:
The last day of the test seemed to show that the English lower order can be quite explosive. I think they are going to be too much to handle in the shorter format with the restrictions of the game limiting fields and bowlers. Do you honestly think we can compete with them in the shorter format of the game with this in mind? Thanks for your great insights
Neil answered:
South Africa’s lower middle order is every bit as explosive as England’s and yes, of course they can compete with England
John Kay asked:
Neil looks like you were spot on with a majority of your comments, except that AB de Villiers keeping wicket really worked for us.

If one of our big 3 fast bowlers gets injured do we have anyone that can perform at their level? Do you rate Lonwabo Tsotsobe? What''s up with Marchant de Lange''s injury? Can he play in the 1 day games? Do we have any other options as new ball bowlers?
Neil answered:
I don’t recall saying that AB was a bad option? In fact, I always said he’d do a great job! Graeme Smith did say after Lord’s that he was mildly concerned about the bowling reserves. Marchant de lange will be an amazing option in the years to come and there is also Wayne Parnell who I see making great strides all the time. Tsotsobe has wonderful skills and would be perfect Test match material if he could find an extra yard of pace and work on his stamina. So there are options, but Steyn, Morkel and Philander are hard to replace!
Neal Prinsloo asked:
Hi, Neil...

We all know that cricket has had great support in South African History and countries throughout the world for hundreds of years. In my opinion, South African cricket has not yet reached such a high as other sports in our country, as can be seen by the number of fans which turn out to watch games. And many years of disapointment of S.A. national teams at huge comps has had its effect on that support toward S.A. cricket. We keep failing at the world stage in the CWC, does beating England away make up or gather up support, enough to make turn outs better at stadiums in S.A.? Does our national teams inconsistancy in winning big competitions deplete our stadium turnouts?
Neil answered:
You need to look deeper than merely the performance and results of the national team to understand crowd numbers. Where there are large crowds there is a culture and tradition of watching sport, and facilities are conducive to an ‘easy’ day out. Frankly, it’s just a bit too hard for many people in SA, especially when it’s on TV. Parking, shade from the sun, amenities – there’s a great deal that could be improved.
Eugene asked:
Hi there
Just a simple question. When Philander first played for SA he was playing T20 and ODI. When he made his return to South Africa he played Test Cricket. According to His ODI Stats, he did quite well for SA but failed to impress with a few drop catches. Currently, if you look at his economy, and line and length, similar to Shaun Pollock, would you not say that he is ideal for ODI''s.
Neil answered:
I think there’s a far greater chance that he would be very hittable in international one-day cricket. And worse – that it would upset his Test form and rhythm. He is the model of consistency in Test cricket, but that translates to ‘predictability’ in one-day cricket. Batsmen can run down the wicket and slog him. Then the bowler starts fiddling with his line and length and that affects Test form – perhaps. He may well become a brilliant ODI bowler as well, but for now I’d leave him playing Test cricket.
Albertus Jooste asked:
Looking past the England tour to Australia. How will you prepare and what can we expect in terms of changes to the existing squad. How will the conditions be different to England? What went through your mind when you saw that the catch that Duminy took of the bowling from Morkel was a NB. Lastly how did you celebrate the victory against Englang
Neil answered:
The squad is just fine as it is, I’d say – wouldn’t you? I don’t foresee any changes provided everyone stays fit and strong. I experienced a numbness in my body not unlike an anaesthetic when video replay showed that Morne had overstepped. The replay is shown in real time on the big screen so the crowd are watching it, too. The cheer was awful. But my emotions were really for Morne, I felt dreadful for him. I honestly, truly still believed the team would win. Like almost all of the great moments of trimph or despair, there usually so much work to be done afterwards that I end up having no celebration at all, really. I finished writing and doing radio crossings at about 10:30, had a couple of glasses of wine and went to bed. (But I made up for it later.)
Lloyd Shabalala asked:
We have a great team and we are obviously happy with the current squad. But we need to prepare for the future. How do we bring in new blood for the future without disrupting the current team chemistry?
Neil answered:
It’s being done all the time. But as I answered above, don’t mistake familiarity with age. Seven of the current Test XI are under 30! Most teams think nothing of giving debuts to 30-year-olds whereas we want to discard players when they are 30! Neil McKenzie, by the way, was part of the Hampshire team which won the English T20 on Saturday!
Andy Wassung asked:
Hi Neil,

What do you think the chances are of us seeing a return to a Test Series consisting of 5 matches. You think any chance we can expect such a miracle. I know its all ICC politics and money and the T20''s bring in good viewership, but 3 T20''s and only 3 Test''s when number 2 is playing number 1 in the world. And now going to Australia...one of the most exciting rivalries in the calendar of any Aussie and South African and we have 3 tests again.

Have we seen the end of the great 5 test tours? (forget the Ashes)

It is so sad to see such unbelievable and exciting cricket over the last few days and to know that that''s it.

Thanks a lot
Grizzling Test Fan
Neil answered:
We are told by administrators that SA-England series in future will be a minimum of four Tests. But we’ll see. The last straw for me was two Tests against Australia at home  last summer. It makes it very hard to trust or believe the people who run the game. I’d like to think we’ll play four-Test series in future, but the days of five-match series are probably gone. Sadly.
mike asked:
what is your take on the dismissal of Morne Morkel by Prior, technically out but was it in the spirit of the game?
Neil answered:
I think it was brilliant skill by Prior. Very clever. It was similar to ball tampering which produces devastating reverse swing. It takes great knowledge and dexterity to get it right, and the results are amazing, but it’s not in the spirit of the game and, some would say, it’s not legal, either.
Joseph asked:
Hi Neil,
I would like to know - is the art of legspin bowling and wicket keeping teachable skills? Reason I am asking is, if I were Faf I would put in extreme hours in order to develop my wicket taking control. Coupled with his batting - he would guarantee his place in our side for life. Same with someone like Quinton de Kock, put in the hours to develop this "other discipline" and you will almost be a shoe-in because the batting abilities are already there. I know talent plays a major part, but, HOW major? Thanks
Neil answered:
You can teach everything except flexibility, and wicket keepers and leg spinners need to be the most flexible of all. I’d say teaching constitutes 90% of a players ability but the extra 10% comes with breeding – or luck!
Eben Coetzee asked:
Isnt it time for Biff to go.We nearly lost it all while he refused to use Duminy to bowl or even Rudolph if he wanted legspin.Why didnt he tell Tahir to try going over the wicket at times
Neil answered:
Yes, definitely time for Biff to go – on a day trip to your Institution. Perhaps he could bring you some flowers and chocolates? Yes, why on earth would he persevere with his specialist spinner under so much pressure when he had two perfectly good part-timers to turn to? Hope you get well soon.
Hilary Peter Spears asked:
with the number of successful umpire''s decision referrals and also the number of very close but unsuccessful decisions, could cricket not benefit from allowing 3 unsuccessful referrals rather than the presently allowed 2
Neil answered:
Takes too long. Also, I worry that we are moving too far away from the original intention of the DRS which was to eradicate the really BAD decisions – not to adjudicate the really close ones.
Brendan asked:
Hi Neil

What do you think has brought about the change in Graeme Smith the captain? I have always been a big fan, and defended him, but he often seemed hesitant to take risks and go for the kill. This seems to have change recently with sporting declarations and more attacking field etc. Do you put this down to Kirstens influence, or having a better team at his disposal, or just maturity/confidence in the role? a combination maybe?
Neil answered:
All of the above. Kirsten has encouraged him to worry less about the consequences of failure and he has reached the point in his career where he doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone – apart from himself.

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