I hope my letter finds you in the right mood. I understand you are having a hard time with your elbow, and you would probably be kicking yourself for stretching your injury till this point of time. I get it that you would be reading rubbish articles in multiple places stating that you prioritised the Caribbean Premier League over your national duties.
But you know what, I don’t care.
I like to believe and pretty strongly do, that you felt your body can take the stress and survive the tough summer. I understand, given the payment from the South African Cricket Board is average, compared to what cricket counterparts around the globe make, you wanted to play in the leagues to earn some extra money for family. It is totally acceptable, AB. In fact, you did the right thing.
At your age, it isn’t necessary to take a lot of rest in between tours. Like Steyn says, the more you are playing, the fitter you become. Your body is definitely capable of taking the extra rigours. So let the critics comment what they want to. Use this break, AB. Analyse about your team, your troops and your captaincy.
I think this forced break would do a world of good for South Africa and you. A captain and a leader would always like to observe his troops from far. It always gives him a better view of his players. A more mature and open outlook. This is your chance, AB. I am sorry to put across a fact that you possibly already accept. You are no natural leader. But you have improved over the years. By leaps and bounds. You are no longer the guy who said at the cricket World Cup 2015 after losing to Pakistan, “We may not be as good as we think we are”.
Let this break open a new perspective. Think about how you have been impulsive on the field and in the press. Yes, impulsiveness and trusting your instincts is good. But not every time, AB. Trust that analyst who says you need an extra slip when Kohli is batting or a short mid-wicket when Steve Smith is batting. Use your resources wisely. You have a superb team.
Let the quota and transformation run in the background. Do not let that bother you. We have enough talent among the colored and black players now. Trust your players and bring out the best in them. Don’t be an Alastair Cook. Be a Sourav Ganguly - aggressive, backing your troops, trusting your plans. Ganguly once said, “We know, and they know, that we can beat them.” Make that your mantra.
Think if you really need to play T20 for South Africa. There is enough firepower and talent in that format. It is the Tests and ODIs that really need a guide. You can be and should be that guide.
Ask your long time mate, Faf, to let loose his mind. He is too bogged down. The pressure of replacing the mountain that Kallis was, at no.3, has got to him. Let him know he is the anchor in this team. Give him back his no.3 spot in Tests. Let Amla come behind himAnd for Christ’s sake, ask him to work on his dot ball percentage. He has become too negative minded at the crease.
South Africa seem like the only team that does not know how to use David Miller. He is not your finisher, AB. He isn’t the man to come smash an 8 ball 25 at the death. Think how your RCB mate, Gayle, would take, if asked to play at no.7? Miller needs to time to get set and then go wild. The world knows it. Why can’t South Africa see it? He should be in that top 4. Even if it means you dropping to no.5 in ODIs. Let Morris do the finishing job. He is the man for that job.
Let us talk about De Kock, AB. That young guy is a bundle of energy. He is oozing talent. He is the future of South Africa. That fearless aggressor who can take South Africa to the top of the World. In the company of Hash, he can flourish. He is flourishing. Don’t speak to him, AB. Keep him trouble free. He will more often than not, give you the perfect start in ODIs and T20s. And don’t open with the poor lad in Tests. He is a keeper. Make him a Gilly at no.7 in Tests.
Rabada next. This guy is already a legend. Do not overload him. Give him breaks. I know the transformation and quota policy means he is more often than not in the playing eleven. But do not do that. He needs to be managed like a piece of diamond. He is rare, boy, isn’t he?
There is a new guy you should know about, AB. Dwaine Pretorius. This guy will soon walk into your Test team as well. He is your answer to the Kallis puzzle. He may not be as good as Kallis, but he is your best bet. He can hold a bat much better than Parnell and bowls exceptionally well. Give him a fair run. Even if it means sitting out Duminy, play Pretorius. Duminy needs a break for sure. Send him back to domestic cricket for his own good.
The Test team looks fine now. It has had a tough period. But trust me, the team looks good now. That bowling attack is as good as any in the world. The batting looks solid after Bavuma’s entry. The lad is good, pretty good. Just find a way to keep Theunis De Bruyn in and around the national set-up. Expose him to the team culture and the rigours of International cricket. He will form the nucleus of the future South African batting line-up. Do not ignore him, AB.
Look at Dale Steyn. What a comeback he has had. Talk to him, AB. He really doesn’t need to stretch himself and play ODIs. I understand his eagerness to help South Africa become the World Champions. But, he is tiring. He is the good old wine that South Africa need in Tests, to guide Rabada, Abbott and Morris. Make him understand his role. He is as good as it comes, when talking about fast bowlers.
Same goes with Morne. Why is he treated like a step-mother? He is a senior guy in the team. The one who can turn it on when the battle is at its peak. Play him, AB.
Don’t look rattled the next time you walk into the stadium. Look confident and energised. The team needs some positivity. Let Dale Steyn or Chris Morris do the pep talk. They are the mavericks in the team. Crack a joke in the huddle. Free up your poor souls from the burden of a million expectations.
I am concluding, AB. This letter is stretching the borders of the acceptable length for such a piece. Push the right buttons and use your time off from cricket to think about the cricket, South African Cricket. When you come back, bring back the lost belief with you. Inspire your men. You are not just the best batsman in the world, you are the guide that South Africa needs right now. The one missing link to that coveted World Cup is belief. Absorb it. Time will wait for you, AB.
From a big fan (I like to believe, the biggest)