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Mpitsang concerned about low strike rates in CSA T20 Challenge


National selection convenor Victor Mpitsang says he hoped to see the country’s batsmen dominate more during the recent CSA T20 Challenge.

Cricket South Africa’s national selection convenor, Victor Mpitsang

JOHANNESBURG – Batting is not just a concern for the Proteas Men’s Test team, with national selection convenor Victor Mpitsang, saying on Monday he’d hoped to see the country’s batsmen “dominate more” in the Betway T20 Challenge.

While the Test side has to solve the problem of why it keeps suffering batting collapses, in the T20 format there are concerns about an inability of batsmen to assert themselves and show greater impetus at the crease reflected in a number of very low strike rates (average runs scored per 100 balls faced) for the country’s batsmen in the local T20 competition.

“In those conditions (at Kingsmead), a few batsmen really struggled to adjust and to adjust quickly,” said Mpitsang. “I would have wanted to see batters dominate more.”

Too often those conditions were used as an excuse by batsmen from various teams. It is not as if the nature of pitches at Kingsmead – where the tournament, reduced to a single round of league fixtures and played in a bio-secure environment was played – are a mystery to anyone in South Africa.

Kingsmead is no longer the green, seaming track of years gone by and in the last five years, for the most part it has assisted spinners. Batsmen didn’t make the necessary adjustments, even before coming into the tournament, to enable themselves to play better and most importantly score quicker there.

“Guys who adjusted quicker, were the ones who were successful. But guys couldn’t dominate immediately because of the surface. A guy like David Miller, his strike rate was 130, he adjusted well, he felt he needed to be there at the end (of an innings), so found a way to stay in and could then hit the ball and that comes from experience,” said Mpitsang.

Of the top 20 highest run-scorers at the tournament, just five had strike rates above 130 with Miller, Heinrich Klaasen and George Linde, all recently part of the Proteas T20 team. The other two players were Robbie Frylinck and Sarel Erwee and it will concern Mpitsang and the selectors who will meet this week to, among other topics on a lengthy agenda, pick a squad for the series against Pakistan next month, that so few players were able to formulate a plan to score quicker.

In attempting to identify batsmen who can give the Proteas innings more impetus, eight months ahead of the T20 World Cup in India, an obvious name is AB de Villiers, but Mpitsang said he is not part of the selectors plans – for now.

“Chris Morris is still available to play for SA, he’s not retired yet, but AB has retired from international cricket. As far as I am concerned he’s not availed himself to play for South Africa – unless he’s told someone else something different,” said Mpitsang.

“It’s fair to say, if AB avails himself for South Africa, that is a different conversation, but at the moment, as far as I know, he’s retired from international cricket. Morris is not retired, so that is a different conversation.”

Mpitsang has not had a conversation with Morris yet either. Last week Morris, who played for Titans in Durban, failed to offer clarity on his international future. “I will have to have that conversation when it happens,” he said. “There’s a lot of chat saying if someone comes (to ask me). No one has come.”

The most pleasing part of the T20 Challenge for Mpitsang was how well the bowlers performed even in helpful conditions, while Keshav Maharaj has thrown himself into contention for a spot in the national T20 team.

“Kesh’s bowling has grown from the Momentum Cup last year, to now and what’s impressed me is how he’s managed to bowl people out.”

Maharaj, along with the current T20 incumbents, Tabraiz Shamsi, Linde and Bjorn Fortuin, add depth in a crucial area for South Africa given the location of this year’s World Cup.