Nel promises to keep 'Gunther' in check

South Africa quick Andre Nel has insisted he will keep “Gunther”, the nickname for his aggressive on-field personality, under control in the third Test against England at Edgbaston.

Fast bowler Nel is renowned for his verbal spats with opposition batsmen, although it has often seemed he is revelling in the role of “pantomime villain” rather than bearing any sense of genuine grievance.

A much calmer figure beyond the boundary, Nel was dubbed “Gunther” by his teammates after former South Africa fast bowler Allan Donald first used the term to describe how his personality changed when he was playing cricket.

But the 31-year-old Nel, who replaces injured fellow quick Dale Steyn in what is likely to be the only change to the South Africa team that won the second Test by 10 wickets at Headingley, is adamant he can now channel his aggressive instincts.

“Gunther will make an appearance in the middle,” Nel said ahead of Wednesday’s start. “He will definitely come up. There is no doubt about that.
He will definitely sneak out somewhere along the line.

“I was messing around with our computer guy one day and he said sometimes when I go on to the field I’m like those guys who live up in the mountains and have a lack of oxygen to the brain.

“Gunther has a lack of oxygen to the brain and sometimes it happens to me.

“I’ll be pumped up but I’ll be a smarter pumped up. I don’t think I’ll be overboard any more. I’ve got smarter with time so I am looking forward to it.”

Nel, who has taken 119 wickets in 34 Tests at an average of just over 31 apiece, added: “I have calmed down a bit. There will still be ‘white line fever’ but just a bit more tame.

“The older you get, the smarter you become and maybe you use that aggression in better ways and better energy and that’s what I’m trying to do. I have worked on that for the past couple of years.

“The aggression I use makes me the bowler I am. Without it, I am half the bowler, so I’ve got to use that but in the right way so it works in my favour.”

Nel last played Test cricket in January and is determined to make up for lost time.

And he hopes his experience of English conditions will work to his advantage in a match where a victory will see the Proteas go an unbeatable 2-0 up in the four-match campaign and win their first Test series in England for 43 years.

“It has been frustrating but we have a good squad and only 11 guys can play. Dale and all the guys have been bowling well so you have to wait and take your chance—and hopefully I can take my chance here.

“I’ve been fortunate to play four seasons in a row with Essex. I think it has helped to make me smarter. I’ve played everywhere around England so I’m used to bowling in English conditions. Hopefully that will help me.

“I’ve only played the one one-day international at Edgbaston. I bowled a bouncer and Freddie [Flintoff] fell on his back the last time I played here.

“You’ve got to go out and give it your best. You never know. It might be the last chance.”—AFP

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