Conrad’s new style will be put to the test against Windies
Proteas head coach will be looking to display signs of a turnaround against a promising West Indies side
The Proteas’ new regime under Test head coach Shukri Conrad will aim to play a positive and fearless brand of cricket when they lock horns with the West Indies in this month’s two-match series.
Conrad’s new era, that starts in the first Test on Tuesday, will be marked by Temba Bavuma as red-ball captain at Centurion, having replaced Dean Elgar in that role.
After a disastrously weak showing in losing a three-Test series in Australia 2-0 at the end of last year — several glaring deficiencies were exposed during that loss — the new regime will be looking to display signs of a turnaround against a promising West Indies side.
They will do that, recently departed Proteas batting coach Justin Sammons said, by attempting to get closer to global trends of greater aggression in Test cricket, especially in batting.
An inability by the batters to score big hundreds was SA’s achilles heel in last year’s Test series.
Teams around the world have shifted gears and gravitated towards a more positive approach to Test cricket, especially with the bat. This has been largely led by the hugely successful aggressive brand termed “Bazball” that England have employed under captain Ben Stokes and Test coach Brendon McCullum.
The pair have said the approach is an attempt to rescue the dying longest version of the game. SA under Conrad’s leadership will move in the same direction.
“Land the first punch,” was how Sammons described the desired style of play Conrad is striving for with the Test team.
Sammons worked closely with Conrad when the new Test coach deputised for the ODI team — which is awaiting the arrival of Rob Walter as coach — as SA showed signs of the aggressive style when beating England at elements of their own game with a 2-1 series win in January.
Sammons was replaced in the Test structure by temporary batting consultant Neil McKenzie for the West Indies series as Cricket SA completes the process of finding a permanent appointment for the role.
Sammons said Conrad has a unique philosophy that will test the Proteas to start meeting international standards, especially the batters.
“He very much challenges the batters in terms of mindset. He is always looking to take the positive options. Conrad really keeps his message simple. It’s not mainly about execution but more about the mindset of the batters.
“Are we in that aggressive mindset or positive mindset where we look to put the opposition under pressure and look to throw the first punch? That was the message from him in the ODI series against England. It was very simple and very clear.”
Bavuma has also hinted at the more positive approach the Test team want to follow under Conrad and said the series against West Indies is the perfect time for them to begin to establish that identity.
“We’ll always advocate for a positive brand of cricket. We’ll always be looking for opportunities to put opposition teams under pressure,” Bavuma said.
“This series against the West Indies will be an opportunity for us to find that way. I think with the new faces in the team, you need to give them time to find their feet in international cricket. We are going to look to play a positive brand of cricket.”
Conrad has already made some big decisions after taking over from former coach Mark Boucher. He appointed Bavuma captain and dropped batters Sarel Erwee, Kyle Verreynne and Khaya Zondo who have not done enough to prove they can suit the style Conrad will strive for.
The biggest omission from the Test squad to face West Indies is fast bowler Lungi Ngidi. For a good two or three years Ngidi has been seen as the leader of the Proteas attack and as Kagiso Rabada’s new-ball partner. Conrad shocked everyone by selecting youngster Gerald Coetzee instead.
Ngidi did not perform at his best against England and Australia. Coetzee, on the other hand, has express pace and an attitude to match — attributes that line up neatly with the idea of greater aggression in bowling and batting.
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