I don’t like Mondays

Mondays are bad days at the best of times, but Monday September 20th was worse than most. The London sky was grey and it rained for much of the morning. The lady I paid 55 rand to supervise my washing at the local laundromat combined it with a car mechanics overalls and opted for the boil wash. Do my ruined shirts constitute an insurance claim?

But much worse than that was having to write another column in the wake of another miserable defeat. Most of what needed to be said was said in Sri Lanka so, instead of words, I wondered whether the use of numbers might be more appropriate.

There’s an old saying: “There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics.” In other words, statistics can be manipulated to say whatever you want them to. In cricket that’s particularly true over a short period of time. But over a long period of time, cricket statistics are generally very honest and revealing about a player’s performance and contribution to his team. Anyway, here goes. You decide what these numbers mean to you:

In his last 30 one-day internationals Shaun Pollock has taken 29 wickets. In only five has he taken more than one wicket and in nine he has taken none.

In his last 30 one-day internationals Mark Boucher has scored 405 runs at an average of 21.3 per innings. He has scored two fifties.

In the 17 one-day internationals he has played since the World Cup last year, Lance Klusener has not batted four times and has scored 195 runs at an average of 21.6 in the others. He has taken 17 wickets, one per game.

In the last 30 one-day internationals he has played, Jacques Kallis has taken 22 wickets at an average of 38.6. His overall economy rate has been 5.42 runs per over and in eight of those matches he has conceded more than seven runs per over.

In India the cow is a sacred animal and should never, ever be harmed. Every effort should be made to ensure the cow’s comfort and tranquility. Cows should never be questioned, even if they decide to chew an old cardboard box in the middle of a busy road in the Calcutta rush hour.

But for the majority of the world cows become dog food and sausages the moment they have served their purpose. Very few are given the opportunity to reinvent themselves and enjoy another couple of years of productive life.

But our cricket team are not cows, they are fine athletes and decent people who have made us all very proud for many years and they deserve a chance to redeem themselves and become productive once again. It is not only their fault that they have assumed ‘holy cow’ status. All of us have boasted that we have “three or four of the best all rounders in the world.” Well, that may have been true once but it’s not true any more.

Pollock is not a wicket taker, he is not a strike bowler and he certainly isn’t a death bowler. He is a still a magnificent cricketer, however, but now may be the time for his role to change. If he can justify his place as a number five batsman then he could still bowl eight or ten overs cheaply – in one spell – at the beginning of an innings, much like Glenn McGrath does for Australia. But he must justify his place as a batsman.

There are three young, exciting wicket keeper/batsmen in South Africa who would hope to average more than 21.3 in international cricket. He will undoubtedly bristle and simmer with rage at the prospect, but Boucher may yet benefit from a return to provincial cricket in a quest for the missing, magic ingredient. His influence on the team is enormous yet he has barely been worth his place for over a year.

Klusener has a role to play in the team – as the second spinner. He does not want to bat in the top order, and rightly so because he can’t do it any more. The sight of part-time spinners tieing him up in knots with loopy, non-turning rubbish in the last two years has been pathetic yet, on a dry or ‘gripping’ pitch his off-cutters are highly effective.

Kallis is a complete liability with the ball. Unreliable, unpredictable and prone to deliver a minimum of two half volleys per over. It may severely affect the balance and the composition of the team, but the team needs to realise that, in one-day cricket, Kallis cannot be viewed as a serious all rounder. He is, of course, still one of the best batsmen in the world.

Perhaps the time has come for fresh faces. Albie Morkel, Ashwell Prince and Alfonso Thomas may be on the verge of an international summer.


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