It is wretched habit of those professionally or even just emotionally invested in the performance of ‘their’ sports team to suddenly question the quality and merits of the opposition after a resounding victory. South Africa thrashed Sri Lanka to clinch the series – therefore Sri Lanka must be useless.
Well, the truth is that Sri Lanka were hopeless on the night. But was that because they are almost all 25-years-old or younger, or because South Africa produced another clinical, ruthless bowling display? Keshav Maharaj is one of the most humble human beings ever to represent his country, but his tactical captaincy is sheer guillotine. Cut the head off as quickly and painlessly as possible. I apologise to him and everyone else if the metaphor is insensitive, but it is accurate.
Maharaj has a ruthless streak in cricket which is in direct, inverse proportion to his qualities as a person. Generous and humble to a fault off the field, and even on the field when it comes to civility, decency and a charming disinterest in verbal engagement, his tactics as a cricket captain are brutal and uncompromising, with a touch of daring and gamble. He has pushed for wickets and total control of the game when other captains would have compromised with a ‘what if’ contingency plan.
Quinton de Kock appears to thriving in the more specific role he has been given within South Africa’s ‘high risk, high reward’ strategy. Playing five specialist batsmen is modern-day madness. If Aiden Markram provides a genuine sixth bowling option, why pick six other bowlers? Seven bowlers seems to be a wacky luxury. But not if de Kock is at his best. Smash the 3rd, 4th and 6th overs of the Power Play and then change down gears from 6th to 5th or even 4th to make sure the Proteas can post – or chase – around 160. It’s not going to work all the time, but it’s a clear and concise plan for the T20 World Cup and that is far better than no plan.
In other news, one of the game’s great servants and success stories, Ryan ten Doeschate, announced his retirement from the game after 19 seasons with Essex, the last half dozen of them laden with trophies when he captained the county.
Ten Doeschate was born and raised in Cape Town and was chipping away at a career with Western Province but knew he was up against it in a team with half a dozen internationals. ‘Tendo’ was one of those players, like Alan Dawson, who could be easily missed in South African domestic cricket and its obsession with ‘wow’ cricketers.
But when England toured South Africa in 2003 Nasser Hussain liked what he saw in a warm-up match against WP and persuaded the 20-year-old to come to Chelmsford for a trial. Initially he played club cricket in the Netherlands but soon signed a full contract with Essex and was a consistent success in all three formats for almost two decades.
He also maintained an international career with the Netherlands for whom he qualified courtesy of his Dutch father. His magnificent 119 against England in the 2011 World Cup is still talked about a decade later. He will make his swansong at the T20 World Cup next month where the Netherlands are grouped with Ireland, Namibia and Sri Lanka in the preliminary stages of the tournament. I fear for Sri Lanka. That is a hell of a group to get out of.