Pakistan Cricket – South Africa Series 2010
First posted on Pakpassion.net
by Saj Sadiq & Usama Ahmed
24 October 2010
Richard Pybus is an English cricketer, and now a highly respected cricket coach. He has twice coached the Pakistan cricket team, in 1999 and a second stint in 2003. He is currently coaching the Cape Cobras, a top South African domestic team, and is also a Cricket South Africa Coach of the Year award winner.
PakPassion.net caught up with Pybus to get an in-depth and detailed preview of the upcoming Pakistan vs. South Africa series in the UAE.
PakPassion.Net: This Pakistan vs South Africa series will be a compact one [2 T20s / 5 ODIs / 2 Tests]. Let’s commence our discussion with the T20 matches and othe one dayers. How do you see them playing out?
Richard Pybus: I saw a hefty portion of the ODI series between Pakistan and England. I thought Pakistan played some exceptional cricket in the back end of the series in England and they will be buoyed by that, especially given the off field distractions. I imagine the strength and performance of Pakistan’s bowling unit will be the key for their success; they have wicket taking bowlers and variety in their bowling unit. From the South Africans’ perspective – they are still working through their options and they will use the one day series as a stepping stone for the World Cup. Also regarding the Twenty20 matches, the South Africans will be looking to look at some of the young players and to see what they can do.
The key area for the South Africans will be their pace attack and above all Dale Steyn; even though he’s coming off the back of an injury sustained in the Champions League Twenty20. Also Morne Morkel has recently had an ankle scare in the series versus Zimbabwe. So, the two strike bowlers have question marks over their fitness and they will have to be looked after by the captain. I don’t expect either strike bowler to be overbowled.
In terms of the batting side of things for Pakistan and South Africa, both sides are sorting out options in the limited overs formats.
From the South African perspective, they are looking for a couple of the youngsters to put their hands up. David Miller from Natal and Colin Ingram from the Warriors are two young and exciting left handers that Pakistan won’t know too much about. They are both exciting and free scoring players who hit a “long ball” as well. Other than the 2 guys aforementioned, you have batsmen such as AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith who provide a very strong core to the South African batting line up.
PakPassion.Net: Looking at the respective Test squads – the South African Test squad has stability and a familiar feel to it, with the recognizable and experienced names?
Richard Pybus: Yes, the core of the squad is still there and its been playing some very good cricket for the past few years. Alviro Peterson has settled in nicely at the top of the order with Graeme Smith. They have the likes of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince and Duminy. Prince is the current incumbent of the number six spot, but he’s under pressure from Duminy. It is an impressively strong batting line-up, plus it’s well renowned and established.
PakPassion.Net: Obviously, the conditions always play an important role. We saw how Pakistan found it difficult in the seaming and swinging conditions during the England tour. How do you see the South Africans handling conditions in the Emirates in the test series?
Richard Pybus: I think they’ll be fine. If Dale Steyn is fit then he is capable of getting the ball to reverse swing, given the dryness of the wickets in the United Arab Emirates. The South Africans are very adapt at reverse swing and they are one of the best sides in the world at bowling reverse swing. In addition to reverse swing, they have a bowlilng attack that is very good at conventional swing, so they have good options there.
Paul Harris will be key for the South Africans with the control factor in the first innings, and then a more attacking option in the second innings. Harris will enjoy bowling in the UAE and his confidence is high on the back of a recent 5fer. It’s a key period for Harris, as the inclusion of Johan Botha in the Test squad will generate some pressure on Harris. It will be interesting to see how the Pakistani batsmen play Harris, as he’s had some success against them in the past. He has given the South African bowling attack some control over the Pakistani batting line-up in the past by bowling a leg stump line in the first innings.
For the Pakistanis – I think their spinning combination will be important. Saeed Ajmal will evidently be critical and there is always the threat of Danish Kaneria and his leg spinners. I’d really like to see Danish being brought back into the test side and I think he (Kaneria) needs to be persisted with in the Test team. Danish is an exceptional leg spinner and he just needs a run in the side. If the Pakistanis play both their spinners (Ajmal and Kaneria) and add to that the quality of their seam attack, the Pakistani bowling line-up is a strong one.
PakPassion.Net: So, what you are stating is that both spinners should be played during the upcoming series together?
Richard Pybus: I would certainly have both of them in my squad, as the selectors have done so. However, you cannot say with certainty that both should be selected in the final eleven. It depends on the team combination and in my experience, the conditions in the UAE are very dry and abrasive, therefore very good batting conditions. Once the ball gets a bit older and then the wicket starts to open up, the spinners come into the game. Waqar and Misbah are going to have to choose the right combination and will be looking for a high quality effort from their spinner(s). I would definitely like to see the inclusion of Danish Kaneria, as he offers the Pakistan Test team something special.
PakPassion.Net: The Pakistani batting line-up against England struggled, especially against the new ball. How do you think the Pakistani batting line-up will cope against the likes of Kallis, Morkel and Steyn in the UAE?
Richard Pybus: It’s important to remember that the pitches in UAE are not as quick as those in England and they don’t offer the same degree of bounce. Subcontinental batsmen are usually “front foot” players, their first instinct is to come forward and then go back. Guys like Morne Morkel rely a lot on bounce, and whilst the pitches in the UAE won’t neutralise Morne’s bowling entirely as he gets good bounce on all surfaces, but the pitches in the UAE will take a bit of the edge off of Morne’s bounce and effectiveness and that wil help the Pakistani top order.
Facing the new ball for the Pakistani batsmen will be about facing bowlers who have speed and swing. The batsmen need to judge the line of the ball right and to work out the deliveries they need to play at and what they can leave, especially if the ball is swinging. South Africa’s bowling unit’s success has been built around creating wave after wave of pressure. When one bowler finishes his spell, another bowler then generates the same amount of pressure. The key to any successful innings is getting through the new ball, getting the ball older and then playing good and normal Test match cricket and that’s something the Pakistani batsmen need to look to do.
PakPassion.Net: The Pakistani bowling line-up has obviously been hurt after the off-field issues that have meant that Asif and Amir are unavailable. This results in additional pressure being placed on Umar Gul, how do you see Gul faring against South Africa in the test series?
Richard Pybus: This is undoubtedly a big opportunity for Umar Gul. He’s tended to be used as a first change bowler in Test cricket. I’ve always thought of Umar as someone who needs to become almost a “Glenn McGrath or Shaun Pollock” like bowler in terms of his line and length. He needs to “sit” on a length and stop trying to be cute with his bowling. Umar has fantastic control, he just needs to find the right length for the type of wicket he is bowling on and hold that length and to allow that control to be his gameplan and to enable the execution of that gameplan to help him in picking up wickets.
In my experience, one of the great things about the Pakistani quick bowlers is that they have wonderful skills, but if something isn’t happening then they become a tad impatient and to bowl a little too straight and try to make things happen. As a unit they need to hold their channels, be patient and to build pressure and this has been the problem for Gul in the past.
PakPassion.Net: Another fast bowler who was selected into the Test squad is Mohammad Sami. His career started with a bang on debut in New Zealand; after that he hasn’t lived up to expectations – where do you think he has gone wrong?
Richard Pybus: I feel Mohammad Sami came into the side during a difficult period. The side was coming to an end of an era and the side was disjointed and there were some challenges with younger players looking for leadership roles. It was an unsettled side and this was just not the appropriate environment for young, upcoming players to come into the side, when the squad of players wasn’t really a team. Plus, I think the expectations were huge on him – quite often youg Pakistani fast bowlers are compared to the likes of Waqar, Wasim and all of those great bowlers which is never fair on any youngster. I think it become somewhat like the Umar Gul scenario – they start trying too hard and getting away from the basics. They start to try too much, too soon and they tend to lose their bowling shape.
Sami came into the side at a difficult time and the team environment wasn’t particularly good when he first came into the side. He is a wonderful talent and he needs some role clarity in the team. He is a “proper” quick bowler who has good shape on the ball and who can bowl at real pace. Waqar needs to put some good gameplans together for Sami and to sort out what the expectations are and to hold to those gameplans, session after session. Sami is a special bowler and if they can get the plans right they can be a good unit.
PakPassion.Net: What do you think will be the outcome of the five ODI matches?
Richard Pybus: The fitness of Steyn and Morkel is going to be key. If Steyn and Morkel are completely fit than the victory will be with South Africa. If the two of them aren’t fit then that is going to expose the second wave of South African bowlers and I think it will a very close series. However given the quality and variety of Pakistan’s bowling attack, then I think it will be a closely fought series victory for Pakistan.
PakPassion.Net: What about yourself Richard? It seems your team [Cape Cobras] are doing well at the moment. How are things going for you with them?
Richard Pybus: I am really enjoying myself. Cape Town is one of the world’s great cities. We have a diverse cricketing culture in the Western Cape and to add to that, we are based at one of the world’s great cricketing grounds. We’ve got a great set of players led by Justin Kemp and I am thoroughly enjoying the whole experience.
PakPassion.Net: Best wishes for the future and thank you for your time.
Richard Pybus: Thank you.