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Cricket | India tour of South Africa 2017/18

Virat Kohli (R) © Gallo Images

Q&A with Neil - after ODI series loss

We have drafted in our expert, Neil Manthorp, once more to host a Question & Answer session after the Proteas' ODI series loss to India.

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

And keep your eyes peeled for our next session.

The question and answer session has closed.

Questions and answers
Jaryd Kalideen asked:
Hey Neil. Honestly, to me, the Protea''s have been pathetic in this series thus far. It is possible that leadership is lacking considering how flat and unresponsive the players have been. They seemed to have just been going with the flow. The bowling attack is as weak as I''ve seen in a very long time. There''s no bite anymore. The batsman lacked a back bone and any fighting spirit. Granted, the Indians bowled and batted well but not THAT well that SA had no response. To me, some selection changes are needed and experience is required. What are your thoughts on the way forward? This series has been embarrassing. Thank you.
Neil answered:
Thanks for that, Jaryd. I have a feeling you have set the tone for a number ‘questions’ to come in this Q&A. Still, I hope you feel better getting it off your chest! I honestly haven’t noticed any problem with the intensity of the players. They have been badly outplayed by a much better team and the batsmen have, by and large, been badly exposed by the two India wrist spinners who have been brilliant. You mention ‘selection changes’ and 'experience is required’ but you make no suggestions…. you can’t buy experience from a shop.
Mohammed asked:
Hi Neil. My question is , why are the selectors making the same mistake everytime opting to play all rounders instead of batsmen , when in all honesty we really in need of batsmen right now . Why did they play Phehlukwayo when he did not bowl very well , instead of Behardien whos been in excellent form recently and i bet he will only get a chance now that it is a dead rubber. Please tell me why the selectors are always choosing all rounders over batsmen.
Neil answered:
It is not unusual or even unprecedented to play two allrounders in an ODI team. I agree Behardien has been the form batsman at domestic level and deserved a chance in one of the last two games. But it’s not as though he has been waiting for a chance for three years, like Khaya Zondo. Behardien has been given many chances and has not produced his best as often as he would have liked.
Trevor asked:
Hi Neil, two issues 1. We seem to lack quality all-rounders - in the past we had guys like Kallis & Pollock, teams like England have genuine all-rounders like Stokes & Ali. Do we have any prospects? (which could make a difference in winning a world cup) 2. After the WC we expect a raft of retirements especially amongst the batters, do we have quality replacements?
Neil answered:
Wiaan Mulder and Dwaine Pretorius have the potential to be absolutely genuine, 50-50 allrounders. So does Andile Phehlukwayo who is still a baby in terms of international cricket. Remember he made his debut at 19! Chris Morris is also a genuine allrounder. I’m not so sure about the batting depth…I think that may be a bit weaker. Yes, there may be as many as seven or eight international retirements after the World Cup. An entire generation may disappear at the same time! But there is some ‘scenario planning’ taking place.
Lloyd McFarlane asked:
In the last few years there has been a noticeable decline in the batting of the Proteas, in all the formats. I am unconvinced this is due to a lack of ability. The batting coaches have rotated a lot recently and perhaps Benkenstein needs to be given a bit more of a chance but I have been wondering how long until Jacques Kallis gets offered a coaching position? Do you think he would be willing to fulfill the role of batting coach as SA''s best ever batsmen? Oh and perhaps he can offer some coaching on slip catching as well as bowling? seems a no brainier if he''s willing.
Neil answered:
Jacques was offered the position three years ago under Russell Domingo’s leadership but, having been on the road for the best part of 20 years and having just accepted the position as head coach of Kolkata Knight Riders, it was entirely understandable that he declined to take it. Personally I think Kallis would be an ideal ‘consultant’ rather than full-time coach. Actually, I believe most specialist coaches would be more effective in a part-time capacity. Perhaps spending 10 days on a tour rather than the whole six weeks. Players need to be able to think for themselves.
Andrew Rose asked:
Outside of the run chase in the 3rd ODI the Proteas have been outplayed in every department. However in the batting vs spin its like we were amateurs. How does a country rectify this when our domestic league is so short on world class spinners for our batsmen to educate themselves?
Neil answered:
Yes, exactly! If we had enough money we could, perhaps, ask Chahal and Yadav to stay behind for a couple of weeks after the tour and bowl to our best batsmen for a couple of hours a day! But I’m not sure they’d be interested in doing that, and anyway, there’s a Test series against Australia coming up.
But that’s why we have SA ‘A’ and Emerging Player tours to the subcontinent, to learn. But how do soccer players prepare to play against Ronaldo or Messi? They can’t, can they? They know they must expect one to be a deadly dribbler in the box and the other to be deadly from set pieces, but that doesn’t mean they can do anything about it.
Thoza asked:
Hi Neil - any chance we could have both Quinton de Kock (in-form of course) and Klaasen in the same lineup (esp.) for subcontinent teams, seeing that they are both fair players of spin? what is your take on that? Secondly - could it have been a coincidence that earlier this morning we woke up to a rather similar tweet shared by both Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada "Money is the root of all evil." What''s boiling?
Neil answered:
Yes Thoza, I think it is perfectly possible that De Kock and Klaasen could feature in the same Xl - and I know the selectors have even mentioned it as an option for the future. With De Kock having so many injury issues with his fingers he might just benefit from some time without the keepers gloves. Obviously he needs to rediscover his best batting form before that becomes an option. I have no idea what’s boiling, if anything. But if there is an issue with money then it will become public soon enough, these things always do.
Gary asked:
Hi Neil. Thanks for great commentary as ever. A couple of queries/comments. Virat Kholi had some words for Markram, Rabada and even seemed a bit aggressive with the umpire when an Amla LBW was given not out. What does the ICC/cricket laws say about such behaviour, if at all? Secondly, I am seriously disappointed with our batsmen - apart from Klaasen and how they addressed the Indian attack/spin. Duminy - so talented but disappoints too often. de Villiers - outrageously gifted but seems to have lost his desire? Miller - quick 30''s man and then out too often. Do we get new and younger batsmen in now for 2019? Lastly, credit to CSA - given our history, it is so good to see that the Proteas have new heroes in Ngidi, Phelukwayo, and Rabada who will spearhead our attack in the future. They are there on merit and there is no scent of quotas. SA Cricket is providing a great role model for our youth and for other sporting codes. Great stuff.
Neil answered:
Thanks Gary, as I said in an earlier answer, many people find Kohli’s almost constant petulance more than a bit irritating. He knows, of course, that match referees will think twice about sanctioning him because of who he is, and he also knows just how far he can push it before the match ref is forced to act. Why does he do it? Well, sometimes it is spontaneous but mostly it’s because it’s not only the viewers who find it gets under their skin, it’s the opposition. If behaving like a spoilt brat enhances his and his team’s chances of winning, then that’s what he’ll do. (And he’s not the first captain to do so, and won’t be the last!)
They are a wonderful trio, aren’t they? And as much a credit to their schools as they are to their Franchises and CSA…
Jacques Nel asked:
Neil, I have 2 questions: 1. Why is it that throughout the whole tour so far most pitches baring maybe two seems to have been prepared to suit Indian conditions. 2. With all the injuries in the squad the replacements were supposedly picked on form. Why is then that there not a single member of the Warriors team considered? A team who has been consistent in all short formats this season?
Neil answered:
Hello Jacques. Frankly, it is absurd to suggest (or even think) that any pitches have been deliberately prepared to suit India! Absolute nonsense. I know all of SA’s groundsmen personally and they are all patriotic, cricket-loving South Africans who would love nothing more than to give the Proteas an edge. Even to the extent that Bethuel Buthelezi and Chris Scott risked their reputations at the Wanderers to prepare a “green seamer”. But you CANNOT guarantee how a cricket pitch will turn out – it’s impossible!
The Warriors has always been a traditional, selection ‘blind spot’ but hopefully you’ll be satisfied with Jon-Jon Smuts and Christiaan Jonker in the T20 squad! Who else do you believe merited recognition?
Kegan asked:
Hi Neil, After 3 Test Matches (6 Innings) and 5 ODI''s, we scored a Grand Total of 1 Century. Are you able to put this into perspective, considering we are playing at home, against quality opposition? My second question relates to AB. Do you believe he has the ability to still compile hundreds? Since World Cup 2015, he has hit a total of 7 hundreds across all formats. Kohli has hit 3 in this tour alone. PS 1. Manthorp, 2. Agnew hehe. Kegan
Neil answered:
Hello Kegan – the batting has been a collective disappointment, no doubt about that! It’s a very good India team, as you know, but not that good! Honestly, I am completely convinced that AB will start scoring hundreds again very soon. I’ve got him down for a couple in the Test series against Australia. Kohli’s current form is a little scary. I think we need to put him in brackets when making comparisons with other players…
Aadil asked:
Hi Neil, Klaasen has been a great find over the last couple of ODIs. if QdK is fit, is it worth playing Klaasen as a specialist batsman to bulk op our middle order and shorten the long tail we have(drop a spinner)..? Also, why does AB feel the need to go guns blazing from ball 1...does he put himself under extra pressure to perform..there was ample time in the 5th ODI to set himself and take the game deeper...Cheers...
Neil answered:
Yep, Klaasen and QdeK in the same XI is a possibility. Funny how we say “good find” when a man’s been playing for eight years! He’s 26 and has worked his backside off for the chance to “burst” onto the international scene.
Perhaps AB has started a couple of innings too quickly but, in a funny way that may be a good thing. He is feeling so good, so confident, and is so keen to score runs and make a winning impression that he hasn’t given himself enough deliveries to settle.
Johann asked:
Hi Neil ~ credit to India but it is clear that with the protea injuries our depth in RSA is not what it should be. My question is how do we strengthen our domestic setup in order to strengthen the national side when injuries occur.
Neil answered:
We moved from 11 provinces to six Franchises in order to create a ‘strength versus strength’ situation and, theoretically, make the national team stronger. Now, I believe we need to move back towards creating more opportunities. Eight Franchises would improve things – there are too many talented players not playing quality cricket and wallowing in the anonymity of amateur provincial cricket. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen since CSA lost R150million on the Global League false start. But that’s one direction we should be heading in.
Guy Copans asked:
Hi Neil, is it not time to part ways with JP Duminy? I understand that he is experienced, has a fairly decent record and offers a part-time bowling option, but I also feel that he has massively under-performed in his ODI career in relation to his talent (much like his test career), especially on big occasions. Most of his better performances have come against minnows such as Zimbabwe and the Netherlands. In pressure situations in ODIs, he gives me zero confidence.I''m not sure how the decision was made to promote him to number 3, but he is clearly not up for the job, Is it not time to jettison him from the ODI team (much like he was dropped from the test team) and blood new, young players that could help us win the World Cup?
Neil answered:
Hello Guy, once again JP is under pressure and nobody knows it more than he does. He has had a terrible series just when he most needed to convince the selectors that he was still the man for international cricket. His decision to retire from first class cricket was always a risk because it is in the longest formats that you develop the strength and resilience to succeed in the shorter formats. In the absence of De Villiers for the first three games and Du Plessis for the last five the selectors believed that JP’s experience was essential in the middle order but, although he has fielded brilliantly and bowled well he has obviously been a disappointment with the bat. The selectors face an extremely difficult decision with JP. The next ODI series isn’t until July/August in Sri Lanka, half a year away!
Ryan asked:
Hi Neil. Why on earth have the majority of pitches thus far been more suitable to India''s home conditions (Ironically, Newlands excluded). When we toured India and were thrashed, it was a dust bowl and you can understand that, as home teams generally prepare pitches that play to their strengths.
Why are our groundsman not preparing greener pitches and should they not to some degree, be held accountable? At the very least, a better understanding / communication between CSA and groundsman is needed. Cheers
Neil answered:
Ryan, I have the greatest respect and empathy for our groundsmen. In India, if you’re asked to prepare an spin-friendly, ‘Indian’ pitch, you basically cut all the grass off it and leave it alone for two weeks. Go home, take a holiday. Then, when it’s dry and cracking into pieces ready to start turning into dust, come back and paint some crease lines. Put the stumps in.
In South Africa it is a painful, high-risk gamble trying to keep the grass alive until match day, keep the moisture levels just right, pace and bounce but no spin… frankly, the request for such pitches was ridiculous and unfair. Preparing a cricket pitch is both science and art but also requires some luck with the uncontrollable elements.
Baali Soda asked:
Hello Mr. Neil! Long time reader (fan) of your articles, here. Would really be interested in hearing your thoughts on Zondo''s (looked totally out of his depth for the modern Limited overs format''s requirements) selection and non-selection of someone like Pieter Malan (whom I believe has been scoring heavily in domestic circuits, off-late)? At the start of the ODI leg, did you really expect this Indian team (Bowlers, in particular) to have such tremendous success against SA in SA (despite the home team missing few key core players to injuries)? On totally off topic, whatever happened to the very promising tearaway pacer Marchant De Lange (haven''t seen him South African colors for quite some time)? Lastly, your views on increasingly aggressive (in your face) wicket celebrations and send-offs against the batsmen by bowler (and also by certain fielders), these days?
Neil answered:
Hello Mr Baali, How is Chennai these days? Zondo wasn’t helped by coming to the crease in desperate situations with the top order having failed. At Newlands it was 97-4 and he was facing two of the best wrist spinners in the world under lights on a pitch offering them appreciable turn. But I admit he did nothing to enhance his reputation. Pieter Malan is the ‘invisible man’ of South African cricket. He has scored over 8,600 first class runs in 123 matches with 26 centuries at an average of 46.5 and yet his name is never mentioned as a possible international. It’s strange…. De Lange married a Welsh lady and has therefore qualified for a UK passport so he is now playing County cricket for Glamorgan and that is where his main career lies. I used to believe it was harmless and amusing when bowlers pointed to the pavillion as a helpful gesture to give the batsman directions having dismissed him but I agree it has now become too frequent and too unpleasant.
Anthony Clark asked:
Hi Neil, would like to get your thoughts on what I have noticed in the ODI''s and would like to know if you agree with me or your opinion thereof. The batsmen are giving away their wickets very softly, and feel like they are just not getting in. In contrast, the Indian batsmen work their way through the tough initial spells and then really capitalize on any loose balls. We definitely have quality batsmen, and I don''t believe that India''s bowlers are unplayable. Is it just confidence and a bit of luck that is required? or is there something bigger that you believe needs to happen? Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions, always enjoy reading your diary and opinions.
Neil answered:
The approach and success of the India top five has been exemplary in the series so far. They have not worried about scoring runs in the first 10 overs and have been happy to absorb pressure and even concede maidens if they have had to. They have capitalised on poor deliveries but most impressive has been their ability to take singles almost at will and rotate the strike, non more so than Virat Kohli. For the Proteas, Quinton de Kock has either been ‘missing’ or missing, Hashim has not been at his best, Markram is finding his feet, De Villiers and Du Plessis have been missing, Duminy has made just one 50…. it is no wonder they have struggled.
I like your positive outlook and share much of your sentiment. However, there has been a definite lack of ability and skill rather than application from the batsmen against the two wrist spinners. They are undoubtedly two of the best bowlers in the world at the moment and other teams, too, have struggled but batsmen have to have smart, decisive plans against them to have a chance of succeeding and they have clearly gone missing at times. If they were ever there. There really isn’t any point in complaining about pitches, they will turn the ball on anything. Better to concentrate on devising and then executing good plans and techniques against them.
Eugene asked:
Everyone is saying let the old players go, bring in the young blood. Give the younger guys a chance. We did and we failed miserably. My question is, is the younger players really on world standard at this moment and shouldn''t there be more tours for the junior teams to prepare them for when they take to the field against international players,
Neil answered:
Thanks for the question Eugene - the only ‘old’ player in the squad is Imran Tahir and he has certainly done nothing to suggest he is not up to the job although it is understandable to question whether he’ll still be the right man for the World Cup next year at the age of 40. That's why Tabraiz Shamsi is involved as his understudy. It would certainly be useful if there were more players from the under-19 squad and other 20-and 21-year-olds making a strong case for inclusion but, at the moment, there aren’t. There are more international tours for young international players that ever before in the history of the game. South Africa has SA A tours, under-19 tours and Emerging Player tours made up of the national academy annual intake. On top of that there are specialist programmes which take place for batsman and spin bowlers in the subcontinent….there is more than enough opportunity for young players to learn at an early age.
Nickey Jacobs. asked:
Hi Neil, Just a short question. Why is Hotspot not used in South Africa. In the one game there was doubt about Kholi touching the ball, but on Snicko there was a noise.I think there is a possibility that same stray noises can be picked up. What is your opinion?
Neil answered:
Good question Nickey. It’s interesting but nobody has come forward with a clear statement about why it is not being used. But, as I understand it, there are two clear issues: cost and availability. Hopefully cost wasn’t the issue for a series of this magnitude and importance between the world’s top two teams. There are only two or three HotSpot units available at any one time perhaps one of them wasn’t reserved in time for our summer.
Sbongile Thaphu asked:
Neil, when you look at our ODI team, and incoming players from our domestic league, how far off are we in terms of establishing a new breed of players that can compete internationally, in the World Cup next year and beyond? I ask this because teams like England, Australia, India etc have been producing new players since the 2015 World Cup, and secondly, because when you watched the Proteas in some parts of this ODI series without their usual stars, they did somewhat looked out of sorts and inexperienced.
Neil answered:
Everything becomes so much worse and exaggerated when the team loses, especially when they lose as heavily as they have done against India! Remember how good we all felt the ODI team looked a couple of months ago when they were thrashing Bangladesh? I believe there are plenty of very good players to make up an extremely competitive ODI squad - it's a pity we didn’t see either Wiaan Mulder or Dwaine Pretorius in this series, for example.

All this introspection about the Proteas…. I wish more people realised just how good this India squad is.
Altus asked:
This demerit point given to KG is a joke. I feel the ICC is taking the aggression and competitiveness out of the game. They should put more effort in match/spot fixing, that is the real problem.
Neil answered:
I understand your frustration Altus. Shikhar Dhawan had been smashing KG all over St George’s Park so when the bowler finally dismissed him he reminded him where the changing rooms were. Unfortunately, he also included a few salty verbal directions. Personally I didn’t think it was anywhere close to bringing the game in to disrepute or even distasteful, but like all school teachers the ICC are trying to stamp out disreputable behaviour in it’s early stages. Apparently, they are doing lots behind the scenes to counter match fixing.
Jacques Heinrich Booysen asked:
I love watching Virat play probably as much as Sachin. That 160* at Newlands man, priceless. Question is though he seems to have perfected the art of giving these Proteas batsmen a proper sendoff (read animated verbal spray) while Rabada keeps getting fined. How does Virat manage to do it without getting into trouble?
Neil answered:
I think you probably know the answer to your own question Jacques. Although Virat has been fined and sanctioned in the past it is perfectly obvious that he is not subject to the same disciplinary codes of conduct that apply to most other players. He is also very, very good at taking his verbal aggression to the very edge of sanction time and time again, before always stopping just short of crossing the line between acceptable and unacceptable.
Roberto van Staden asked:
Why are the people so upset. The word coming out of the Protea camp ahead of the series was "Vision 2019", meaning lots of experiments. Surely this result should have been expected?
Neil answered:
People are so upset because of the nature of the defeats, I think, Roberto. Losing a game five minutes after the lunch break – that’s embarrassing. When you give younger, less experienced players a chance, you expect them to give a better account of themselves collectively. A couple of close games might have made fans a little more accepting of defeat in pursuit of a greater, longer term goal.
Stephan Gerber asked:
Hi Neil. Thanks very much for letting us as cricket fans ask you questions as your knowledge of the sport is second to none. My only question basically is about AB. I''m not sure what the batsmen rankings are, but I guess Virat is at the top yet when AB and Virat play for RCB and AB gets the man of the match award Virat is always so humble to say AB is still the best batsman in the world. In all fairness this ODI series for many I think was AB vs Virat. I just don''t get why AB is struggling so much with form that his last test century was in 2015 I think and I can''t remember when last was his ODI century. I still feel AB is a world class batsman, but it just seams that when he gets it right his success rate is still 30% when it comes off. Is he just going through some bad form or is it one of those things where the older you get the less successful you become like Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Tendulkar, Graeme Smith etc. where they retired at the right time because they couldn''t sustain it anymore? Best regards. Stephan
Neil answered:
I don’t have the slightest doubt about AB’s desire or ability to continue winning matches for South Africa. I sat with him a couple of weeks ago and had a long conversation about his career and future goals and I know he is in a better place physically and mentally than he has been in for many years. I also believe, personally, that he made the single biggest difference to South Africa beating India in the Test series, even more than man-of-the-series Vernon Philander. Without AB’s runs in the first two Tests India might have won it 3-0. AB de Villiers has at least another year-and-a-half of international cricket and will, in my opinion, prove himself to be the best in the world once again.

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