When is an opening batsman an opening batsman and when is he told that the opening of being an opening batsman is going to be closed?
Listening to the cricket commentary during the first two tests between the Proteas and New Zealand, I was interested in the advice offered to our luckless opening batsman Stephen Cook who, unlike his partner Dean Elgar, is having a run drought.
Yet Cook started 2016 with a century on test debut in Centurion and ended with another at St George’s Park.
“Cook’s misery continues,” said one commentator referring to his score of 11 in the second innings of the second test. “He must trust in his ability and technique. Not care too much and have some fun. Maybe then the runs will come.”
Another piped up. “He must remember that if the worst happens it happens and not lose his nerve.”
Easier said than done. People will remember how the lashing left-hander Quinton de Kock had a shocking spell as an opener a season or so ago. He came back to form lower down the order but recently was reduced by the New Zealand off-spinner Jeetan Patel to low scores in two one-day internationals and in both innings of the first drawn test in Dunedin.
Happily for “Baby Face” (as we still call him, in spite of his beard), De Kock got his revenge in the second test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington when he scored 91 – 37 off Patel.
The first job of the opening batsmen is to survive. They are expected to go out and face the fastest of the opposition bowlers at their freshest and when the ball is new. It’s not a job for the faint-hearted and losing confidence is the big issue.
Lately our lower order batsmen have rescued the innings and the match. So why not be more flexible about who opens? Let the top six batsmen toss coins in the dressing room about who goes out first. Then maybe Cook will have a good night’s sleep and perhaps score a century.
Trusted with a job of seismic significance
I find it ironic that the journalist who dug out the truth about the death of Steve Biko – posthumously honoured by President Zuma on Human Rights Day – is the much maligned Helen Zille.
It was as a bright young courageous Rand Daily Mail reporter that editor Allister Sparks trusted her with a job of “seismic significance” – to expose the cover up of Justice Minister J.T. Kruger who said that Biko had died on September 12, 1977 after a hunger strike.
In her autobiography, Not Without a Fight, she tells of the breakthrough on September 29 when pathologist Dr Johan Gluckman phoned Sparks saying he and the chief state pathologist, Prof J. D Loubser, had certified that the cause of Biko’s death was brain damage.
Gluckman had sworn Sparks to secrecy, so Zille smartly tracked down three PE doctors who had examined Biko when the security police suspected he was feigning an illness. One closed the door in her face. Another threatened to set his dogs on her. The third, who treated her kindly but would not break his oath of silence, did confirm that Biko was not emaciated when he died.
Adding “in fact slightly overweight”.
“The minute I had that, it was as good as confirmed that Steve Bike did not die of a hunger strike.”
Her report, appearing under a banner headline “No sign of Hunger Strike – Biko Doctors” caused an outcry. It was written off as “tendentious and misleading”. Completely gutted, she offered Sparks her resignation. He told her she’d have to learn “to take more heat” if she wanted to be a journalist in apartheid South Africa.
He could also have added “and a politician in 2017.”
Is there really a water crisis?
The most watertight secret in Newlands – the Breweries’ spring with four taps running continuously – is now common knowledge.
When I went there mid-morning on Wednesday with my three 5-litre plastic bottles to fill with the sweet, fresh, free water, there were 26 cars squeezed into every corner of the small parking area and 16 people in the queue in front of me. I was told it was just as busy at 6am.
While it is pleasing that the water is not being wasted, it would help if there was some order brought to the queueing.
Some people come with a bakkie load of 25-litre plastic containers to fill. Others have eight to 10 of the same size to fetch water on behalf of their family or work colleagues. It can be a long wait for those with modest demands.
I was amused by the man in front of me who, weary of standing, suddenly turned around to the world in general saying: “Do you really think there is a water crisis? Or will it turn out to be like the electricity crisis?”
My left foot
Wednesday, being our rubbish removal day, always attracts the “bin people” to search for food or any useful items. Last week, a group thought they had struck gold when they found a bin containing many brand-new shoes. Joy turned to disappointment when they discovered that they were all for the left foot. They were samples being discarded by a shoe salesmen.
A neighbour watching the scene was touched to see how hard they tried to find two left shoes that could perhaps be worn as a pair.
When a woman says “I’ll be ready in five minutes” it’s about as accurate as a man saying “I’ll be back in five minutes.”