South Africa stars on their T20 chances

South Africa stars on their T20 chances

Quinton de Kock, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi discuss the international cricket schedule and the development of South Africa’s T20 team.

Quinton de Kock, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi discuss the international cricket schedule, the future of the game and the development of their T20 team.

There is lots of talk about the challenging cricket schedule. How are you managing your work/life balance?

Kagiso Rabada: Yeah, it is becoming challenging playing all three formats. You’re playing all year, with all the franchise leagues that are involved as well. Mentally, it takes a toll on you, as it does physically. When you combine those two together, it becomes extremely challenging. On the flip side, we get an opportunity to play a sport that we love. I like to remind myself how lucky I am.

David Miller: It is, it’s challenging. But we had loads of games called off when the pandemic begun and I remember missing cricket badly then. It’s just trying to make sure that we’re in the best possible shape in terms of physique, really making sure that we tick our boxes in the gym and stay fit and healthy. You want to play as much cricket as possible while you’re in good nick. I’ve kind of decided just to listen to my body at this stage and try and play as much cricket as I can.

What are the keys to staying mentally fresh?

Quinton de Kock: The biggest thing since I retired from Test cricket is that there’s probably not so much pressure on my body anymore. I’m still playing loads of cricket, but T20s are easier on the body than Test matches, when you have to come back for a few long days in a row. For me, my body being fresh means that I stay mentally fresh. I can play for a few different teams and stay fairly relaxed. That’s the benefit of only playing white-ball cricket.

Lungi Ngidi: If you don’t switch off then your mental fatigue actually starts to hinder your performance. I’ve had that before. Just getting away from the game, taking a walk. Sometimes just listening to music and walking down the street really does help. And mostly just chilling by myself, to be honest, because I feel any time cricketers get together, you may start the conversation however you want, but it always ends up at cricket. I try to get away from it as much as possible.

Do you see a future where every player will have to pick and choose which formats they play?

KR: At the moment, I feel like I am happy. I feel like there’s still a lot to achieve in all three formats. But I guess there’s going to be a time when it might be too much. When I have a family, or whatever. Who knows? But I don’t see myself stepping back any time soon.

LN: It probably won't be my choice. I’ll be told one day that I have to pick a format. But if I could, I would like to play all three. I enjoy my cricket that much. But it is understandable that at some point, one thing has got to go, with other commitments and mental wellbeing to think about.

QdK: Look, everyone feels different, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it started going that way. As time goes on it’s becoming tougher to do all three. But there are some guys who can still do it and fair play to them. Some guys’ bodies can take it. But there’s a lot of cricket going on everywhere now, so it seems likely that things will start to change.

How is the South Africa team shaping up as we head towards the T20 World Cup?

QdK: We’ve had a good run in the last year, we’ve done really well. It was a slow start when Mark Boucher came in but we knew it was going to be because we had to come up with a blueprint and a plan for how we want to go about things.

DM: We have been building up the squad for some time now and everyone’s understanding their roles. We’re playing really, really well as a team. Individual performance is obviously crucial and the lads are putting their hands up when they need to. But as a team, we’ve bought into what we want to do and what works. It was fantastic to captain the team to a series victory in England. To win in England has been a challenge for us.

LN: We’ve got a lot of young players in our team, too, and if we are putting in the performances with these guys now, once they settle into their roles I can only imagine what’s going to happen. So we’re in a pretty good space.

What do South Africa need to do to lift that first piece of global silverware?

QdK: At the World Cup, it’s anybody’s game. The team that’s in form is not necessarily going to be the team that’s going to win it, you also need a bit of luck. Last year we were a bit unlucky to only lose one game and not even make a play-off. If we just stick to what we’ve been doing, our process, we’ll do really well.

DM: Looking back on winning the IPL with Gujarat Titans, you obviously need stand-up performances. That goes without saying. Enjoy each other’s success and want to be the match-winner. If you’re ticking the boxes, and you’re doing the right things along the way, generally, the outcome goes your way. So hopefully, things go our way in the World Cup.

LN: We need to not let external influences come into the camp. A lot of things get said about us before tournaments, and we carry this tag around, and that can affect the way we play. But the minute we can shut that out, we are in a really good spot, because we’re playing good enough cricket. Don’t let external influences cloud the mind. I’m confident we won’t, because none of this team have much experience of falling short in tournaments. In fact, last year we won four out of five games, which is hardly failure. Luck does play a big part, too. A bit of luck could help us along the way.

So many South Africa legends have retired over the last few years. Has it been nice to rebuild with a fresh team?

KR: When all of our experienced players retired, we entered a rebuilding phase playing against teams that were established. Our most experienced players are still quite young and the way that we’ve transitioned as a squad has been really positive. It was tough in the beginning, because you had a whole lot of inexperience, and we were playing against established teams. But to see how far we’ve come, I’ve loved experiencing that. And seeing how players have stepped up and announced themselves on the international scene. So, for me, that’s what I’ve enjoyed the most out of it. Having been a part of a team with legends like AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Hashim Amla, and seen what the atmosphere was like, that’s what we’re aiming for. All those players were young and announcing themselves on the scene at some stage. It’s great to see so many of our guys begin to put their hands up now.

LN: The youngsters don’t come in with any preconceived ideas of how it’s supposed to be. They just play their natural game. We’ve all seen Tristan Stubbs, for example, come out and play his natural game. And that’s exactly what we need. So, it is very exciting for the future, to be honest. It feels unnatural, but I guess I’m an experienced player now!

The game continues to evolve with scores going up and up. How much further do you think it can go?

DM: The amount of skill in world cricket is pretty phenomenal. As a batter it’s about keeping ahead of the game and sharp for as long as possible. The fear factor has gone now because it’s been proven what is possible. Teams aren’t intimidated by big run chases or run rates. At some stage, you’d have to say that 300 in a T20 or 500 in an ODI will happen.

QdK: Nobody wants to be left behind. You always want to live up to your talent and you always want to keep growing. Who knows what the limit is?

KR: I will say that T20 is a batter’s game. Bringing in things like two new balls, it’s all to encourage higher scores. As a bowler, you have to find a way to become successful. Bowlers around the world are all talking about smaller boundaries and flat pitches and bigger bats. But it doesn’t help to complain! These days, there are so many tactics, and so many ploys that bowlers use to keep up. You have to be creative.

LN: You’ve even got to lie to the batter. Set one field and bluff them with a completely different delivery. Just being smarter and learning different skills. People say the yorker is still the best ball but these guys have trained to hit that out of the park now. That element of being able to think on your feet is a great quality to have.