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‘Beware India and Australia – they’re the most rounded’, says Yachad

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A thoughtful man and a thoughtful former cricketer, Mandy Yachad begins our telephone interview with the verbal equivalent of a prod into the covers for a single. “I don’t follow the game that fully anymore,” he confesses, saying that, in spite of this, he’s managed to keep tabs on the vicissitudes of the Proteas at home this summer.
by LUKE ALFRED | Apr 18, 2019

Although his attention might not be as committed as he would like, as the interview continues, Yachad reveals that he’s more in touch than he gives himself credit for. His views are invariably balanced and fair-minded, and his analysis of the likely Proteas World Cup squad that was chosen on Thursday is acute and knowledgeable.

With a powerful bowling line-up and a “proven all-rounder” like Quinton de Kock in their midst, he sees Faf du Plessis’ side as outsiders for the World Cup.

“I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I like India and Australia because I think they’ve got the most rounded sides,” he says. “After that, the West Indies and South Africa are outsiders – and probably England.”

Clearly Yachad has been watching the evolution of the 50-over international game carefully, because he’s noticed an almost imperceptible change. “One of my observations is that the game has evolved from containment as a bowling side to something more aggressive,” he says. “I think teams are trying to bowl sides out by packing the team with bowlers which is [national coach] Ottis Gibson’s strategy with South Africa.

“It’s happening quite frequently that batting sides don’t finish their overs, which is obviously going to happen more when you are chasing big scores and fail to reach a total but, in general, I’m not opposed to Gibson’s approach in trying to bowl sides out.”

Warming to this theme, Yachad says that he senses this aggressive approach in teams like India, Australia, and the West Indies, the very sides he thinks will do well at the World Cup.

“I don’t know if this is a conscious mental change or has just evolved over time,” he says. “I certainly think with Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, and Lungi Ngidi in our squad as fast-bowlers, and Imran Tahir there as well – he’s been having a good Indian Premier League – we have a strong bowling line up that’s capable of bowling sides out. Maybe Dwaine Pretorius will also do some bowling.”

While Yachad likes South Africa’s powerful bowling line-up and is a big fan of both De Kock and Du Plessis, he does have some minor reservations about their middle-order batting. “If the two of them don’t perform, there’s an issue,” he says, although he qualifies this slightly by saying that in players like JP Duminy, the Proteas have the requisite experience to try and protect less confident members of the lower middle order.

South Africa’s batting fragilities aside, how does he view the format of this year’s World Cup, where a round-robin phase gives way to knockout cricket from the semi-finals?

“From a positive point of view, the format gives the selectors the opportunity to play different players in different conditions as the World Cup progresses,” he says. “One of the disadvantages of this format is that rain in England could have a significant impact.”

“I think that there’s also a case to be made for a reserve day to be set aside for important matches, although that’s sometimes a little logistically challenging.”

What does he make, then, of the idea that South Africa will be arriving at the World Cup as one of the darker horses?

“Look, it is dangerous being over-confident, without doubt,” he says. “Then again, if you aren’t confident to a certain level, that’s almost worse. Maybe we’re not the best team to go to the World Cup but, let’s face it, the best team doesn’t always win.”

Yachad also accepts at face value recent media reports that transformation criteria will not apply when it comes to selection for the World Cup. He thinks the black cricketers who have been chosen have been chosen on merit, and the squad now needs to be left alone.

“Cricketers need to be allowed to do what they do without extraneous factors intruding,” he says. “Otherwise they’re not likely to be at their best.”

Finally, for a player of his vintage (Yachad is now 58), does he not sometimes feel he’s watching a different game from the comfort of his armchair, what with lighter, more powerful bats, smaller boundaries, and endless invention?

“Look, T20 is an entertainment spectacle,” he says. “But I don’t think 50-over cricket is that different to what it was. I remember once playing in a benefit match at Pirates [in Greenside] and ramping Clive Rice. I don’t quite know what gave me the temerity to do that, but in some ways I think that the 50-over game remains pretty much the same.”

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