Proteas must be quick to adapt their game in Bangladesh

A man walked past the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka two months ago, pushing his cargo rickshaw because it was too heavy to cycle. It had 40 sacks of building sand piled on to it, at 20kg apiece. Clearly there was a gradient on the road, but it was invisible to the naked eye.

Every step he took was painful to observe. The man could hardly have weighed more than three of his sacks, which, in total, weighed 800kg. Three bald bicycle tyres bore the burden at bursting point, but their owner took stoicism to new levels. Every centimetre forward was progress, simple as that.

About half a kilometre past the stadium, the invisible gradient changed again. The rickshaw owner stood on each pedal, in turn, with both feet, seemingly making himself heavier than he was, and his load started to move as it was intended to.

Dhaka is one of the flattest cities in the world, but if anything can identify a slope, it’s 800kg of sand on a bicycle. The last sight of him was freewheeling into the distance, admittedly at modest pace, on the same apparently flat road. It’s unknown what he was paid for the haulage, although it was understood to be considerably less than a dollar.

As a metaphor for playing international cricket in the country, it had its merits. Both batsmen and bowlers have to work harder than in most countries at the beginning of a Test match but things do, eventually, start moving towards the end of an innings. Towards the end of a match, they are positively free-flowing and results can be bountiful. Especially if you are a spinner – of which, the hosts have more and better samples.

Effort and technique rewarded
The same does not apply in quite the same way, however, to the limited-overs formats. The invisible gradients are still there, but effort and technique are rewarded for the batsmen and bowlers prepared to work with the lack of pace, seam or spin rather than labour against it.

Strong batsmen prepared to force the pace on sluggish tracks can be rewarded, whereas the “accumulators” looking for singles in T20 cricket sink quicker than struggling explorers in quicksand. Power-hitters can thrive in Bangladesh but only if they adapt their game from quick South African pitches to the low, skiddy ones they will be playing on for the next month.

“Nobody goes there just expecting to win anymore,” concurred Proteas T20 captain Faf du Plessis this week. “We know it’s going to be a challenge from the beginning but it is one we are looking forward to.

“Everyone will have to adapt their games immediately and make a plan; that’s what international cricket is about these days. Nobody has two or three weeks to acclimatise anymore,” he said. The recent series between England and New Zealand shone a light on a future that South Africa, so far, have not shared. Both teams scored and chased more than 350 in a derring-do exhibition of entertainment.

Despite scoring more 400+ totals in one-day international cricket than any other team, the Proteas insist on “building” a score in T20. They may justify their caution in the opening power-play overs by the middle order’s strength, but they have failed to win anything of consequence; the tactic tells more of a fear of failure than cunning strategy.

It is time to attack from the outset. It does not mean throwing caution to the wind or being reckless, but the sight of South Africa’s top order leaving deliveries and nudging gentle singles into the covers belongs in a bygone era.

Put it in reverse

“The Proteas still have the best pace attack in the world and if they can get the ball to reverse swing, they’ll be too strong for the Bangladesh top order,” says former star Springbok all-rounder Jacques Kallis.

“The only downside I can see is a bit of rustiness after not playing a Test for six months but I’m pretty sure they’ll find their feet quickly.”

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Neil Manthorp
Neil Manthorp works from Cape Town. Talk and write about cricket,golf and most sports. Executive Coach. Cook for the family when at home. Neil Manthorp has over 27405 followers on Twitter.

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Stay at home, Cyril said. But what about the homeless?

In Tshwane, forcing homeless people off the street resulted in chaos and the abuse of a vulnerable population. In Durban, a smooth, well-planned operation fared far better

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders