Cow Corner

He’s Peter Moores, but with added Zyl

Cow Corner

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Okay, so a successful and experienced coach is at the helm for a long
period of time, only to resign disillusioned and pave the way for a
young coach apparently "working wonders" in the national academy. Does
anyone spot the similarities?

After beating England away from home for the first time in 40 years and securing a maiden series win in Australia, it is fair to say that Mickey Arthur had achieved the equivalent of leading a side containing Geraint Jones and Ashley Giles to an Ashes success.

But it is one thing to note the obvious similarities between Arthur and his close friend, former England coach Duncan Fletcher, and another altogether to compare two modest players-turned-promising coaches - Corrie van Zyl and Peter Moores.

Cornelius Johannes Petrus Gerthardus van Zyl, or 'Zyly' to his friends, has been installed as the high performance manager, selector and interim coach of the Proteas, in what represents a structural overhaul as brazen as when Raymond Illingworth's one-man selection 'committee' was disbanded.

Van Zyl is 48-year-old (Moores is 47), he has played for Orange Free State (as has Moores), he boasted a first-class batting average under 20 (Moores's was 24.34), and he has since been groomed by his country's fledgling development system as a potentially good coach coaching potentially good players (as was Moores).

It only seems logical that a man who manages high performance for a living should be handed such an esteemed role, and presumably it will signal the end for low performance vehicle Paul Harris. Although, considering that the Proteas travel to India this week, Van Zyl (pictured, left) is likely to keep his spinning options in tact, regardless of performance or whether the option in this case is of no spin whatsoever.

At least Harris did not suffer the ignominy of being compared to former Welsh wizard Robert Croft, a fate which met Kent off-spinner and England newby James Tredwell. It really is no way to boost an uncapped player's confidence, and would be like telling Ajmal Shahzad that he bears distinctive similarities to Kabir Ali.

Cricket South Africa chief executive Gerald Majola said: "His resignation came through the normal stock-taking process which followed the England home series and against the backdrop of the disappointing results of 2009." By 'disappointing', Majola is referring to a first, then second-placed world Test ranking, and third spot in the ODI standings.

Arthur was reportedly harangued for the apparent flaw of failing to incorporate the 'transformation' ideals within a successful side, which makes about as much sense as Majola saying that the board "regretfully accepted his resignation".

Arthur has a reputation for reacting to being put under pressure like a young Graeme Hick, or an old one for that matter, and it had clearly become too much as his favourite mind-games were turned back on him.

Ashwell Prince, unsurprisingly for a batsman who benefited from incredible loyalty from Arthur, pointed out that "He's taken the team to the top in both the Test and one-day rankings". A pertinent point indeed, but they have failed to win ICC events and have instead earned a reputation as the most reliable chokers in the game.

After England beat South Africa in Durban, Arthur joked about losing his job. He also talked candidly about the politics involved in South African cricket at board level and the sensitivities of the decision to leave out Makhaya Ntini for the third Test. By 'sensitivities' he meant that he wanted to drop the seamer, thus proving that to be a successful 'transformer' does not always correlate with overseeing a successful side.

Ironically, Arthur was very self-righteous and outspoken when Kevin Pietersen and Moores's ill-fated relationship came to an abrupt, tabloid-infested breakdown, when he spoke at length about the value of the 'coach-captain bond'.

It turns out that South Africa skipper Graeme Smith's 'bond' with the third coach under his tenure had again become frayed and, as Moores once said, "a coach can either change himself or change the team".

Fletcher himself remains in a strong position to take the job after the India tour, having sidled alongside Smith and Arthur in the well-known 'batting consultancy' role, while Kepler 'smiling is for losers' Wessels has also assumed a selectors' berth.

With Wessels, picture a thinner, sterner Graham Gooch, who once had a roaring exchange with the chief exponent of lunch in the South Africa dressing room, Jacques Kallis, who had phoned up the former Australia and Proteas batsman to complain of his unflinching methods.

Lest we also forget Mike 'Procky' Procter, who has been unceremoniously removed from his role as 'convener of selectors', and replaced by 'Gailor' Majola, who famously disposed of Dr Ali Bacher, who stepped aside to assist him in a mentoring role.


So all this amounts to South Africa taking
the crisis management approach (and not in a Paul Collingwood way) to a very
strong position in the upper echelons of world cricket.

And with Smith having now seen off three
coaches in his tenure as skipper of the Proteas, Van Zyl will need a lot more
tact and man-management skills than Moores was able to muster. That, or just
wheel in Wessels to give the side the austere Gooch treatment.

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