1 April 2012

Johan Botha To Captain South Australia - Bold Or Bonkers?

South Australia have signed South African international Johan Botha as the new Redbacks captain for the next two seasons. Botha will take up his duties after the T20 World Cup. All hell broke loose when the news began to leak out. The vast majority of the Redbacks fans voiced their protest, many of them expressing sympathy with sacked captain Michael Klinger.

South Australia Redbacks wallpaper by Ian Baggy Green
Wallpaper by Ian (Baggy Green Blog). Download it from the Redbacks
fan page
, or find more Redbacks wallpapers on his blog (scroll a bit).
Coach Darren Berry does not get tired to point out that Michael Klinger did not do anything wrong. So why is he getting replaced then? If you look at Klinger's track record as a captain it becomes obvious that he has lead the Redbacks to remarkable successes in the T20 and the One Day Cup, whereas he could not get a foot into the door of the Shield.

If you take things like player selection / change of generations, administrative moves, format priorities and monetary reasons out of the equation, as an onlooker from the outside you might come to the conclusion that Maxy is a brilliant limited overs captain, but rather luckless in the longest format, because the teams don't differ that much, do they.

So if you want to change something at the Shield, why appoint another limited overs specialist? Johan Botha is rightfully a famous and popular, smart and skilled player with an exceptional work ethic; he obviously gained respect and affection within the Adelaide Strikers camp quickly and I can imagine that many players would happily listen to him. Out of the 21 one-dayers in which he has lead the South Africans he has only lost five. What a sweet lure! The SACA might have been just too tempted to ride their luck here.

What amazes me is that there has not been any kind of statement, not even an announcement, on the official Facebook page. It leads you to believe that the officials are trying to evade the shitstorm discussion, at least until people got used to the thought. Also usually every dog wedding is filmed and put on Youtube, but on this occasion we only get to hear an audio file of this extremely crucial press conference with coach Berry and ex-captain Klinger. I can only speculate that the emotions went high at this particular event.

The SACA knows that they have made a very controversial decision. The superlatives the coach keeps churning out kinda prove that. And they also know that if Botha fails to significantly improve the Redbacks' position in the Shield table, the fans and members might go ape shit.

But let's have a closer look at Berry's ideas. In some places on the web fans suggested possible alternatives to Botha. None of these ideas were realisable, the players in question were either still playing grade cricket or had just made their debuts in the senior team. Naturally you wouldn't just throw such a guy in front of the lions and hope he will turn into the next Rory Hamilton-Brown. The plan is to improve at the Shield, not to replace old warhorse Klinger with a complete noob, right? Some also suggested players from other Australians states. Most probably the same people that moan about SA becoming Victoria for the poor / Australia's cricket dump / England, and would have gone ballistic had Klinger got axed for another fresh Victorian or New South Welshman.

And this is where Berry's idea of a leadership core group comes in:

So apparently the SACA decided against the next best Victorian, who would afterwards be difficult to remove, but are trying to gather potential future leaders around the experienced Botha, in order to increase chances of a South Australian groomed leader in the post-Botha era. So his role is obviously that of a mentor for the younger players. This little piece of info must have slipped most people's attention. And whilst he is mainly known for his limited overs captaincy, his first class figures as an allrounder plus his sharp fielding skills are nothing to be sniffed at; Berry expects him to stabilise the middle order noticeably. Michael Klinger on the other hand will be able to fully concentrate on his batting and I think everybody agrees if I say the Redbacks need each single run from him.

Personally, as some of you might know, I'm a huge Johan Botha fan and will definitely keep my fingers crossed for him, as a Redbacks supporter as well as a Botha follower. Some might secretly wish to see him fail. Others have even laid down their membership already (so I read) or are planning to do so in case of a failure. I don't think that punishing the club and the team and depriving them of the support they are in need of especially now in these difficult circumstances is the right way to go. We should wait and see how this exotic experiment turns out.

There is another interesting aspect to this:

I have asked people, if there has ever been an overseas captain leading an Australian state side. They were not quite sure if Botha was the first, but from the answers you could figure, it can't have been many. Generally the Australian Shield and 40-over Cup are fairly closed events, unlike the English domestic setup. Observers attribute Australia's strength to this large choice of native players on display, whilst others argue that some spice from the outside would increase competition and competitiveness, and produce better, more motivated players. And last but not least, the Australian players benefit from their respective overseas stints as well.

So inevitably the question arises: will the Botha appointment open the floodgates? Ian from The Baggy Green Blog is not too keen on such a development. But is it possible that we are going to see a certain number of overseas players in the domestic matches in the future? And does Botha's tenure as a Redbacks captain really mean that he will aim to qualify for Australia and induce an influx of Saffa players into the Australian national side? Excuse me but LMAO. People can go over the top a bit in their first outburst of rage, however, I think the other clubs will definitely get some popcorn, cola, lean back and watch how it goes, before anybody dares to attempt at a similar move. What we don't know of course is what's really going on in the minds of other Australian administrators. I would really like to hear some opinions from them. Perhaps they are even laughing their rears off about the the SACA's foolhardiness. Or desperation.

I think the Big Bash League is the most likely event where we could see an overseas captain at some point.

And such a decision might even be very popular with the fans, depending on who that player is of course (see IPL). Obviously I'm not necessarily thinking of Virat Kohli here, but a Big Bash team being led by one of the flashy Pakistanis or a West Indian superstar would certainly boost the fun factor and add a lot more glitz and glamour to the tournament. But I really can't imagine many more foreigners in the 'more serious' formats in the near future. That's just not Australian.

Right. Go Botes!