When he was appointed to the job as national coach ten months ago, Mickey Arthur quite correctly pointed to his communication skills as one of his most valuable assets.
It wasn’t hard to find a team mate or student to confirm that he was easy to talk to and a great listener.
But he had never been on a full national tour of Australia at that time and had never experienced the hundreds of distractions that inevitably cause loss of focus and concentration.
The last thing Arthur would want at the moment is for a senior player to be feeling frustrated with his role in the team, unappreciated for his abilities and unused in his strengths. It may not be the case now, but things probably don’t look very good through Justin Kemp’s eyes at the moment.
At the beginning of the tour, before the Titans captain had proved his quality with a match-saving, three and a half hour 55 on the fifth day of the Perth Test, Kemp was asked to cast his thoughts forward to the VB Series and the role he might play in the one day team. He had very, very few doubts.
“People have a perception that I’m the guy that comes in at the end of the innings and smashes it all over the ground, but that’s not me,” he said.
“If we are 200-1 with 15 overs to go then I’ll go in but I’m wary of being moved around in the order and I’d hate to be the kind of player who gets shifted down the order because we’d lost early wickets,” Kemp said.
Justin Kemp, proven one day match-winner for South Africa throughout 2005, starts 2006 filling the role that he openly admits he ‘hates’?
In case anybody missed it, Arthur was asked after the miserable defeat by Sri Lanka in Brisbane whether he would consider moving Kemp up the batting order to take more responsibility now that Jacques Kallis has returned home with injury.
“No. We feel he’s too valuable for us at the end of an innings,” Arthur said.
So, Kemp has two things he dreads. Being used as a ‘end of innings’ specialist, and being moved about in the batting order. Well, he is being used as a slog specialist. What about moving about the batting order?
“Our strategy with him and Mark Boucher is simple. If it’s before 35 overs have been bowled then Mark comes in, if it’s after 35 overs then Justin comes in. It’s been successful for us. That’s the way we like to play it.”
At least, that’s the way the coach likes to play it. It doesn’t sound much like it’s top of Kemp’s wish-list. “My dream one-day innings is to come in at 40-4 and score 150. At the Titans I bat at number four and I’ve worked extremely hard to be there,” Kemp said.
If things aren’t exactly going the way Kemp had hoped before the tour, he could have done without salt being rubbed into the wounds. Any South African supporter, surely, must appreciate the element of ‘mongrel’ and street fighter that Andrew Hall brings to the team. He can scrap, alright, but is he really the pedigree batsman needed to add class and stability to the middle order. And even if he could do the job, is he a better choice than Kemp? Apparently, Arthur believes he is.
“We’ve discussed it and we’re redefining Hall’s role. It might
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