As South African administrators and fans deal with the drama of AB de Villiers’ extended absence from Test cricket, they will be pleased to know that not everything about their cricket is chaotic. At SuperSport Park, where de Villiers said he will be out of the longest format for most of 2017, South Africa’s new-look T20 squad began preparations for a three-match series against Sri Lanka.
In the mix was David Miller, an experienced limited-overs international who wants to make the step up to senior player, Heino Kuhn, a veteran whose decade-long career is finally earning him some reward, Andile Phehlukwayo, who made a sensational start to his international career when he was was the leading wicket-taker in South Africa’s 5-nil whitewash over Australia but has since been sidelined by injury and Lungi Ngidi, a young gun hoping to make his debut. The quartet spoke about their ambitions:
Miller is one of only four members of South Africa’s World T20 squad that will play in this series, and their most experienced shortest-format batsman. With leadership experience from the IPL, Miller hopes to be able to mentor some of the younger players. “I captained six games in the IPL and I feel I can add value whether I am captain or not. I want to try and add that value behind the scenes with the youngsters,” he said. “I am looking forward to helping out Fudgie (Farhaan Behardien) and being a senior player as well.”
The good news for South Africa is that Miller has recovered from a groin and calf strain that kept him out of most of the domestic T20 competition, where he had begun to hit form. He smashed an unbeaten 120 off 61 balls for Knights against Titans, batting at No.4. “I happened to bat high up for the Knights this season which was a really nice responsibility. I feel like I have learnt a lot over the last couple of years in order to do that and same with the national team. If I get the opportunity to bat higher, I would love to take it on.”
An oft-overlooked performer, Heino Kuhn will be making his international comeback after six years, on his home ground. At a time when South African players of a certain age are seeking opportunity elsewhere – six recent Test caps have signed Kolpak deals – Kuhn may be a prime candidate to do the same. He does not qualify just yet – he would need to play at least one Test or 15 white-ball games in a two-year-period to make the move. Even if he racks up those numbers, Kuhn has provided an assurance that he is not looking to leave.
‘I’m very happy finishing my career in South Africa. I don’t think there is any chance of me doing a Kolpak thing’ – Heino Kuhn © Getty Images
“I’m very happy just playing for South Africa and finishing my career in South Africa. I don’t think there is any chance of me doing a Kolpak thing. At the moment I can’t so that helps with that decision. I am happy to stay here, perform for my franchise and perform for South Africa and then call it quits in hopefully five to ten years’ time,” he said.
With the temperament of a man much older than his 20 years, Andile Phehlukwayo has proved he will be a key part of South Africa’s cricketing future. As a bowler, he has taken on the responsibility of handling the death overs and has a deceptive slower ball as part of his arsenal. As a batsman, he wants to be a finisher and did that against Australia. He suffered a groin injury in the first domestic T20 game of the tournament but has since played three first-class games and a List A fixture.
‘I am aware of the things I need to do, how I need to train and the questions that I need to ask’ – Andile Phehlukwayo © AFP
“It was really unfortunate that I got injured at that time. I was really excited for the domestic T20 campaign. I would have liked to really contribute and get confidence,” he said. “But the break had as much of a positive effect as negative. I went away and thought about the processes that I went through to get into international cricket. I thought about the things I did well. I am aware of the things I need to do, how I need to train and the questions that I need to ask.”
One of six players who could make his debut in this series, 20-year-old Lungi Ngidi was surprised when he got the call-up, in just his second season as a franchise player. “We were in Bloemfontein and supposed to play the Knights but it was raining. I was in the hotel room, watching TV and it was around 10 PM. Linda Zondi called me and told me I had been called up. After the conversation I checked my call log a few times to see if it actually was him,” the pacer said.
Ngidi was first spotted by former Titans and current Otago coach Rob Walter, and has now been under the wing of current Titans coach Mark Boucher. At a young age, he is getting the guidance he needs to carve out a long international career. “Mark Boucher has come in and given me the hope that there was a good opportunity that I can play for South Africa. And with him having played for South Africa, he knows what I need to do in order to get there,” Ngidi said. “I get a lot of bounce when I bowl and I’ve stuck with it because that’s what’s worked. I enjoy taking on the role of being a strike bowler. In those tough situations where a wicket is required, I wouldn’t mind getting thrown the ball and making something happen.”
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