In a dossier leaked on Wednesday, the Aussies’ plans to subdue the Proteas were laid bare. Most of it reads like a soap opera plot, and some parts are just plain laughable. By ANT SIMS.
It reads a bit like the script to an episode of EastEnders: predictable, inane and possibly the most absurd thing since Kevin Pietersen’s press conference at Headingley a few months ago. A dossier from the Australian cricket team has been leaked, revealing how they plan to target certain South African players when the first Test between the two sides starts at The Gabba on Friday.
The most disappointing is the slightly unsportsmanlike strategy to deal with Hashim Amla; the Aussies’ plan to target him – the most zen player in the Proteas team – with verbal sledging. The idea is to engage in a “psychological war” with the man who scored 300 against England just a few months ago.
That said, however, the dossier reads more like a praise poem for the Proteas. Most of the document is rather complimentary and the fight strategies would be more concerning if they weren’t so, well, poor. In fact, the dossier is probably the kind of stuff you’d read in the press if players weren’t so nipped and tucked to be perfect puppets with the media.
Still, to all intents and purposes it’s now a big skandaal that the information is out there. And whether it’s a silly ploy to try and rile up the Proteas ahead of the series or simply a basic mistake, it’s certainly going to get tongues wagging.
Beyond Amla, every single player in the team has been given a list of strengths and weaknesses, and a plan has been set out for the Australians to target certain players. In their infinite wisdom, the Australians have picked up on Imran Tahir’s impatience, Morne Morkel’s inconsistency, Dale Steyn’s perceived weakness against left handers. Jacques Kallis, JP Duminy and Amla are all apparently susceptible to short bowling and should be targeted as such.
There are plans for Vernon Philander who, according to the dossier, hasn’t really been tested when returning to his third or fourth spell with the old ball. "We must keep him out there on good batting wickets. He has been great with the new ball, but is pretty much untested coming back for third and fourth spells,” the dossier reads.
AB de Villiers also didn’t escape scrutiny. While there was plenty of praise for South Africa’s blue-eyed boy, the Aussies suspect that keeping wicket in Tests is getting to De Villiers and that the keeper hates not being able to score at a fast pace.
It’s not like the revelations in the dossier are groundbreaking. The weaknesses are, in most cases, legitimate, and it’s the kind of stuff that anybody who watches a bit of cricket would have picked up on. Even Ricky Ponting admitted in a press conference just a few days ago that there were certain plans for certain batsmen.
"We've done our homework on each of their players; a lot of homework on all their players. We've got very specific plans, the way we're going to bowl to a lot of their batsmen.”
The former skipper also admitted that the team had a long hard look at the South African bowling line-up – as every team would ahead of a big series.
“As a batting group, we've spoken long and hard about the way their bowlers will bowl to us as well. It's nice to know that stuff, and a bit of inside information from the coach is good, but at the end of the day it's about how we'll react on the field... You can have the best plans in the world, and unless you can execute them it doesn't really matter,” Ponting said.
The series between the two sides was always going to be heated – whether through badly worded dossiers or on the pitch, and Ponting was the first to admit this earlier this week.
"Our young quicks are dying to get out there and have a crack at, especially, some of their top order players. You can expect a lot of fireworks, and some of their top order can expect a lot of short balls as well, which is an area we think we can attack them," he said.
"I don't see their batting line-up being any stronger than India's was last year, and the attack we put out then will be very similar to what we put out [here] in conditions we know very well."
If the on-field action even remotely lives up to the pre-match action between the two sides, the series might just end up being one of the most memorable in history. The excitement is palpable and the Australians have just enough time to come up with a new gameplan before the first Test gets started.
THE "PROTEA FILES" - AUSTRALIA'S LEAKED DOSSIER TO NEWS LTD
Strengths: When Smith plays well, South Africa plays well. He is the key to how South Africa goes. He is a really tough, hard man and knows his game inside out. When in form, he moves beautifully and he can hurt you through the legside. He pulls really well, anything short he tries to pull and he has now got a very well-developed offside game as well.
Vulnerability: When Smith is not in form, his feet don't move that much and he can be very susceptible to lbw. We should look develop some doubts in his mind and get him lbw. While he has improved his offside game, he is still less proficient outside off stump.
Strengths: He is a very solid player, on both the front and back foot. He has worked really hard and is mentally very strong. He is a good solid opening batter. He just goes about his business and he has a good technique.
Vulnerability: Is susceptible to the ball coming back in at him. We should look to bowl a few going away from him and then really look to get a good one coming back in at him. That's where we should attack him.
Strengths: A quality individual as well as a quality player. Amla has developed his strengths and through the legside he plays beautifully. He has now developed some good shots through the offside. He scores a lot square of wicket, he hits the ball a lot squarer than most other batsmen because he is very wristy. He has exceptional wrists. He tends to drive square. He has improved out of sight and is a good guy with a great temperament.
Vulnerability: We should look to get into his head and play a bit of a psychological war. We should also look to attack him with short-pitched bowling, lets really go after him with some short-pitched stuff.
Strengths: A once in a generation player. Never gets the wraps he really deserves but a simply outstanding allrounder who is great everywhere. With Jacques, you get two great players.
Vulnerability: We should look to revert to some short-pitched stuff and really test him out with that. Also, he has got such a high backlift he can get caught on his crease.
AB De Villiers
Strengths: An unbelievable player who scores all around wicket - has the potential to be best batsman in the world. He scores off the back and front foot and he can take us apart in a session.
Vulnerability: His batting has been deteriorating while he has been keeping wickets. Susceptible to the ball coming back into him, to trap him lbw. If he is scoring well, we should look to bowl wider to him to try to dry him up and he won't like that at all.
Strengths: A really good solid player. Left-hander who scores all around the wicket. A very competent batsman.
Vulnerability: Susceptible early to nicking out, caught behind or in slips. We should look to take the ball across him, slant it, and get him in the corridor nicking. Doesn't like the ball swinging ball back into his pads.
Strengths: A player who is all class. He scores well all around the wicket. He just looks so easy at the crease a lot of time, one of those guys that you watch and go 'wow'. He drives beautifully and is a player that fans love to watch batting.
Vulnerability: He is another batsman we should look to take on with short-pitched bowling. We especially should look to get him pulling. He has an odd sort of defensive pull, it is neither here nor there and it is an area we can get him.
Strengths: He has been outstanding, a late bloomer. He is so accurate he makes you play almost every delivery and is a great weapon, working in conjunction with the other South African quicks.
Vulnerability: Our batsmen must look to bring him back for a third and fourth spell. We must keep him out there on good batting wickets. He has been great with the new ball, but is pretty much untested coming back for third and fourth spells.
Strengths: There is not a huge amount that has not already been said. He is all quality and has ability to go up a gear up when he needs to. He has great control, he swings the ball and has got genuine pace.
Vulnerability: It is almost impossible to pinpoint an area of weakness but he doesn't bowl as well to left handers. Not sure why. Our left handers should certainly be looking to score against him.
Strengths: A bowler who is very different. That is a good thing from South African point of view - they are all so different. Steyn has skidding pace, while Morne is very tall with the same amount of pace. Morkel bowls really well to left-handers.
Vulnerability: He can be a bit all over place, we should look to put him off his game by scoring on both sides of the wicket. We should look to test his ability to absorb pressure. He is another bowler we want coming back for his third or fourth spell.
Strengths: [left blank]
Vulnerability: can be very impatient with his bowling and it leads to him being expensive. DM
Photo: Australia's cricket players celebrate the dismissal of Hashim Amla of South Africa, who was caught out by wicket keeper Brad Haddin, during the fourth day of the second test cricket match in Johannesburg November 20, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko