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Pre-test Q&A with Neil

Neil Manthorp hosted a Question & Answer session on the much-anticipated first test between Australia and South Africa starting this Friday.

Thanks to everyone who participated, especially Neil during his busy time Down Under.

Enjoy reading and keep your eyes peeled for our next session.

The question and answer session has closed.

Questions and answers
Calum asked:
How much of an influence is the Australian media on a visiting team''s mental condition going into a series in Australia at present? The media always seemed to be the most effective 12th man in the Australian squad! Have the Australian media lost a bit of confidence in their team''s ability to knock off any visiting team over the past few seasons? Or are they their usual bullish, confident selves? Will we be effected by it?
Neil answered:
The Aussie media is extremely competitive and that is the predominant reason they write ‘strong’ or ‘hard-hitting’ stories. The battle for readers and the pressure on sports writers (and other jjournalists) to come up with ‘scoops’ is far beyond anything which exists in South Africa. Consequently our sportsmen have, in the past, been too sensitive to certain stories written about them or taken them too personally. Australian cricket writers have been just as ‘hard’ on their own team as they have on tourists over the years. That’s one of the reasons most Australian cricketers have developed such a thick skin. Visiting teams must make a conscious decision NOT to be affected by the media (good or bad) and then they won’t be. Hopefully!
SHAUN asked:
Hi Neil

I cant wait for this series to start! stocked up on coffee to help me stay awake from 2am! My question is do you think Phillander is in form? he has not been picking up wickets as he did at the start of his Test debute. I noticed that even in the domestic season, Rory had better stats and took more wickets! i stand to be corrected but honestly he is only effective with the new ball! bring him in at over 60? i dont see him swinging it like Flintoff and Steyn...he relies too much on the seam movement of the pitch to take wickets.
Neil answered:
I’m not sure BigVern has ever been out of form, has he? Seriously, while the man has 63 wickets in 10 Tests at an average of under 17 I don’t think we need to worry about his form. He also looked a bit ‘average’ in the warm-up games in England – but had a fabulous series. I suspect there is a bit of ‘BMT’ in Vernon’s make-up and his approach to the game. The bigger the match, the greater his temperament and form. You simply cannot approach every game the same as a cricketer – they are NOT all the same. Especially as a fast bowler.
Bongani Pritchard Mkhabela asked:
Do you think Jacque Kallis still has the mental strength to continue with the team?
Neil answered:
I assume you mean does he still have the ‘desire’ to keep playing international cricket? (There is certainly nothing wrong with his mental strength on the field!) It’s a fair question as he has just turned 37. The answer is ‘yes’, I am certain he wants to be here and is enjoying his cricket as much as ever. I’m equally certain he is looking forward to the day he retires, but that day is not imminent.
Tsyun asked:
How much longer do you think they will give Imran Tahir to ''settle in'' to the side? The man isn''t a 21 year old with years ahead of him, and unfortunately it just doesn''t seem to be working. Believe me I was as excited as the next guy to hear we were getting a genuine attacking leggy, but sooner or later surely we have to be honest with ourselves?
Neil answered:
Harsh. But maybe true? I know this isn’t exactly your point, but who would you rather see as the spinner in the team? If there was another attacking spinner demanding our attention and banging on the selection door then it would make it much easier to question Tahir’s place in the squad and his future, but he’s only played 10 Tests and there’s still a huge amount of cricket left in him. I’m certain that Gary and Graeme still have faith in him – and rightly so.
Doron asked:
Neil Hi, thanks for taking time to answer the questions. Is the trend of 3 tests going to continue, or will we see a reversal back to the original 5 tests as used to be in the past? My issue is that test cricket seems to be dying a slow death with all the focus on T20 these days, it would be an absolute travesty for test cricket to die out? Are the cricket officials doing enough to ensure that test cricket never dies? Your thoughts, thanks.
Neil answered:
It’s important to have a historical perspective when you consider the era of five-test tours. There were only three countries which apartheid South Africa would play against! That’s a good enough reason not to return to five-test series!
Seriously though, there simply isn’t enough time in the calendar to play that many test matches. Cricket Australia’ chief executive, James Sutherland, said just a couple of days ago that he would “love to play longer series” against South Africa but “it’s extremely difficult to plan that when the two countries share a summer. One or the other would suffer at home…”
We are still promised at least four Tests against England once every two years, but otherwise I think we are going to have to get used to three-Test series.
Garry asked:
If AB struggles for form this series is Thami the longterm solution? When you take the balance of the side into account, would it not be wise to risk introducing the young De Kock in early much the same as we did with Bouch?,we all know that turned out alright. I know he needs cricket under his belt but is he in the picture?
Neil answered:
Quinton de Kock needs to do a lot more wicket keeping, I’m told by those who watch him regularly. Remember that he doesn’t even ‘keep for the Lions while Thami is there. Thami has done more than enough to be a well deserved ‘next in line’ to the job. He has averaged over 40 with the bat in the three years he has been with the Lions and is the best gloveman in the country. Let’s not get too obsessed with the notion of ‘long term’. A year is a long time in international cricket.
Viven Pillay asked:
Hi Neil,

How do you feel that we gave your born country England a hiding in you guys backyard? Im glad you going to cover this series so it brings back memories of the hiding we gave you''ll and snatched the number one ranking away. The only concern i have is how do they let commentators who never even played school cricket comment on the game. Wonder if that question will be answered.
Neil answered:
I left England when I was a one-year-old. I’m not sure what your point is? Nobody gave ‘me’ a hiding. The Proteas beat England and took their number one Test ranking. I’m sorry if you don’t enjoy my commentating but I was asked to commentate. I have followed the Proteas since their readmission to international cricket and the producers at SABC, BBC, ABC etc felt that I could add value. I did play cricket at school – and beyond.
Hope you have a great day.
Justin asked:
Gday Neil, Alviro has done alright since, but dont you think we need someone explosive at the top ? I know its a test match but to have someone like Hayden/Warner/Sehwag/Tendulker/Jayasuriya... would make all the difference, i think thats the one element this team is missing in order to be an even greater team like the ozzies of the 20th century ! Comments ?
Neil answered:
Alviro cannot do any more than he has in the last few Test matches. If you are not satisfied with two scores of 150 in his last four Test matches then you’re never going to be convinced. He is a high class, top quality opening batsman and he has proved it often enough, surely?!
Gavin Phillips asked:
I''m really looking forward to a great contest which hopefully will have an exciting result, but why are there no ODIs? and what is the reason for Faf Du Plessis and Jauque Rudolf to be in the squad, they are both great players but has Jauque being playing and do they see something in Faf that we all dont see, as he is a great ODI player but is he a good test player?
thanks and hope to hear from you soon.
Regards, Gavin
Neil answered:
The boards of CSA and CA decided to split Tests and ODIs so that we did not have the unsatisfactory situation of playing each other in back-to-back tours once every four years. Now the two countries will play each other every year, alternating between Tests and ODIs, home and away. It seems far more sensible to do that.
How will we ever know whether Faf is a good Test player until he plays?
Sifiso Shoba asked:
Hi Neil.

My only concern about the current SA squad is the exclusion of Lopsy. After all the work done on him and praise afforded to him during the English tour(warm up matches) and the fact that he offers variation in out pace attack, to have him dropped like that is a real mystery to
Neil answered:
The inclusion of Kleinveldt over Lopsy was explained in some detail by selection convenor, Andrew Hudson, who said his style of bowling was thought to be more conducive to Australian pitches than Lopsy’s. Left arm variety is, of course, highly valuable – as is his ability to swing the ball. His physical conditioning and inability to reach much more than 135 kph were also factors, I understand. But he is far from a spent force and remains an extremely valuable asset to the ODI team.
Luke asked:
For once South Africa are overwelming favourites to win the test series. Our bowling attack is 2nd to none at the moment and we have a few batsman in the top 10, while our coach has a world cup win under his belt. The wicket should suite us as well. What do you think our biggest threat, if any, is?
Neil answered:
You are right – literally – about “for once.” It is the first time in 100 years that a South African team has touched down in Australia as favourites! Man-for-man you would have no option but to conclude that the Proteas are the better team on paper. Biggest threat? The game is played on grass, not paper! The mere fact that the opposition is Australia, on home soil, is the biggest threat. ANY Australian team in history has been capable of beating any opposition on a given day. Or five days.
John Kay asked:
I find it hard to believe that the Proteas will win the series. We have a good bowling line up, but if one of our top 3 fast bowlers gets injured or if we have to play our backup keeper we are just an average team. Playing in Australia is never easy and our supporters should not be expecting an easy victory no matter which players Australia play. I hope I am proved wrong.
Neil answered:
Would you find it less hard to believe if you knew that Steyn, Philander and Morkel were definitely going to stay fit? Who’s to say Kleinveldt won’t make the sort of impact BigVern did when he came into the XI? Your appraisal of Thami Tsolekile sounds dismissive and uninformed. He is the best wicket keeper in the country and, as a batsman, has averaged over 40 in the three years since his move to the Lions.
Pierre Cloete asked:
Hi Neil

In tour opinion who will follow up Jacques Kallis if he retires??

Should the Proteas look at somebody like Jacques Rudolph, who can bat at 4 at test level and 3 in ODI''s especially with his experience ? He still have a few years left in him, or should they look at someone at domestic level?

Neil answered:
Let’s all try and agree, right now, never to talk about “replacing” Jacques Kallis! He is a once-in-a-century cricketer and utterly irreplaceable. Anybody and everybody who is labelled with “the next Jacques Kallis” will be cursed and doomed. And it’s too early to speculate about the number four position because he could still be batting there for another two or three years! But if you insist, I think AB is the most logical number four (he won’t be the Test ‘keeper by then,)
Aaron Koopman asked:
The use of AB De Villiers as a specialist keeper has provided the team with more options (in this case they have opted to play an extra batter), but surely he would be more useful to us if he''s just playing as a specialist batter. We need him to be scoring truck loads of runs in the middle order and the keeping seems like its a burden. This didnt really work in England earlier in the year. Whats your thoughts?
Neil answered:
There are SO many opinions and theories floating around, but doesn’t the most important one belong to AB himself? A couple of years ago he said he was “reluctant” to keep wicket. Now he says he is enjoying the job and is convinced that it did NOT affect his batting in England. As you say, it does amazing things for the balance of the team and, to all intents and purposes, with Kallis at number four, turns the Proteas into a 12-man team. So why disturb the status quo at the moment?
Ami asked:
our attack needs Rory kleinveldt , not Imraan Tahir , i think he is hungry enough, on bouncy pitch top make a difference.Whats more, hes got newly crowned sportsman of the year at the other end.What do you think?
Neil answered:
How right you were! What a brave call from Durban! There’s no doubt that Rory deserves his chance. Consistency has been his watchword for several seasons and his pace is good. He may still play a part in this Test match.
Justin asked:
Hi Neil, how much -in your opinion- of an influence on the test series result will Mickey Arthur have, knowing SA''s players weakness''s and strengths
Neil answered:
It won’t have any influence on the result whatsoever. I was chatting to Glenn McGrath about this subject yesterday and he said: “batsmen knew exactly where I was going to bowl at them, they knew my game plan and they formed their own against me. Everybody had ‘the knowledge’. But it didn’t stop them nicking it! Talk and theory are one thing, getting the job done is another.”
Alan asked:
Not a question....just a comment I hope Neil will get - I just love your tour diaries Neil. Riveting journalism!Enjoy the tour.
Neil answered:
Thank you very much indeed. I really appreciate the feedback. But I’m not sure we can classify my tour diaries as ‘journalism’…! :)
Stu asked:
Robin Peterson looks a much improved bowler to me, particularly as a wicket taker in ODI''s. Do you think he has a possibility of playing the second or third match, if Imran struggles? His fielding and batting are useful as well.
Neil answered:
Of course he has a chance! He wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t highly regarded in ever capacity and also considered to be the second best spinning option for the Proteas. I’m a huge Robbie P fan.
Dirk Momsen asked:
Where do you feel Australia might have the upper hand going into the series?

If Australia win the first game, do they go all the way and take the series?

p.s. loved your coverage this year, always a good read and always so interesting. Much appreciated.
Neil answered:
Many thanks, Dirk. Really appreciated. Without wishing to sound overconfident or tempt fate, I’m not really sure whether the Aussies have the upper hand in any area…do you? They have match-winners and huge talent, no doubt about that, and they can certainly beat South Africa. But there would have to be a series of factors conspiring in their favour…like the Proteas losing a key player to injury at the start of a Test match!
Shaneel Bachoo asked:
Do you think that the recent labelling of the SA bowling attack as no.1 in the world will benefit the SA bowlers, or will it simply add unnecessary pressure, under which they may underperform?
Neil answered:
I don’t think it matters, certainly not negatively. The fact that the compliment came from Allan Donald will mean a hellova lot to the guys. Donald was a hero to all four seamers – Steyn, Philander, Morkel and Kleinvedt. So they will want to live up to his assessment.
Jacques asked:
Good day Neil,

How do you rate our bowling attack, against that of the Ausies? Clearly they feel, they match us in every department. Whether we climg to the summet or continiously play good cricket, we always seem to be underrated by the likes of ENG and AUS. Why is that?
Neil answered:
My opinion or ‘rating’ is irrelevant. Rather ask yourself “which attack would you rather have?” Even Aussies admit they’d rather have the SAfrican attack. That might be different in 3-4 years time when Cummins, Starc and Pattinson are all a bit older and wiser. Their seam attack is full of promise and potential. I don’t believe Australia and England underrate South Africa. They might not give us the credit we deserve, but that’s a different thing. They certainly know how good this team is…
Werner asked:
Hi Neil

I doubt anyone questions AB''s ability with both bat and gloves (although I''d prefer to see a specialist and the only way he can get better is by being keeper in tests), but how do you rate him as a captain. He is obviously not captain in our test side, but with all the speculation around Smith''s retirement, he must surely be next in line.

He has had a couple of shockers (most recently in the T20 world cup vs Pak.) If something were to happen to Smith, who would step up in his place. My opinion, if we lose Smith, we will definitely lose the series.

Neil answered:
It makes a pleasant change to hear somebody in this forum supporting Graeme! We seem to attract too many doubters and detractors. Or perhaps more and more people are finally beginning to realise and appreciate his immense qualities as a leader? I’m not so sure AB would be the ‘natural’ successor to Graeme at this stage. And an awful lot can change in 18 months or two years. Perhaps Hashim will feel ready to assume the leadership of the Test team? Maybe Faf will have established himself in the Test team? And here’s my tip for a really good outside bet: J-P Duminy.
Chad asked:
Afternoon Neil,
Is there any chance of a drop in performance from the Proteas due to fatigue? It was a long series in England, subsequently followed by a high-intensity International tournament. Could they have taken their eye off the ball somewhat?
Thanks for time, Chad from Cape Town
Neil answered:
Fatigue won’t play a role – certainly not physical fatigue. Mental fatigue is an ongoing challenge but it’s part of life as a professional cricketer. (It’s a part of life for most of us, for that matter.)

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