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Dissecting all-rounders ‘in that funny old game’

Sports editor JACK MILNER explains why Americans will never come to terms with Test cricket in his: Rocking the Boat – Dissecting all-rounders ‘in that funny old game’ !

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JACK MILNER

 ROCKING THE BOAT

by Jack Milner

     It might be a hackneyed expression but it remains true: cricket is a funny old game. I have often argued that it is more a culture than a sport. You have to have been brought up with the concept that a Test match can go on for five days and not have a winner. That is why the Americans will never come to terms with Test cricket!

Even records in cricket are different to other sports. You can have, for example, a record sixth wicket partnership by two Gauteng players against the Dolphins at the Wanderers in a Test, which is different to another sixth wicket stand between two players from the same team against the same team in a limited overs match.

 You could again have another record by the same two players against the same team, but this time at Kingsmead in Durban.

 The reason for all this is that former South African cricket captain and managing director of the United Cricket Board, Dr Ali Bacher, got together with journalist David Williams to write a book on South African cricket called “Jacques Kallis and 12 other Great South African All-rounders”.  

 Very much like all the cricket records, every cricket enthusiast will have an opinion on who they think are the 13 best all-rounders in South Africa but Bacher and Williams have clearly laid out their criteria for the “baker’s dozen” they have selected.   

 They started by looking at batting and bowling averages and decided to include any all-rounder who had a Test batting average of at least 40 and a Test bowling average of less than 30. They then discovered it would have been a list of one. The only person in the history of the game to meet those criteria was South African Aubrey Faulkner who played between 1906 and 1924.

 The reality is that most all-rounders are stronger in one aspect of the game than another. 

 Finally, the authors decided to consider Test cricketers with a batting average higher than 25, a bowling average lower than 35, they must have played at least 20 Tests, scored a minimum of 1 000 runs and taken at least 50 wickets or a minimum of one wicket per Test. 

 In order to create a table of the best all-rounders, they also decided to deduct the batting average from the bowling average, the logic being that the larger the difference, the better the player was at both bowling and batting.

Despite lowering the original standard, just 42 players in the history of the sport meet those requirements. Remarkably two players stand out well above the rest. At No 1 is West Indian legend Sir Garfield Sobers and at No 2, only marginally behind him, is Kallis.

Sobers had an average of 57,78 for batting and 34,03 for bowling, a difference of 23,75. Kallis, who could still go up or down, is 56,10 and 32,43, a difference of 23,67. 

In third place is Englishman Stanley Jackson (15,50) who played for England from 1893 to 1905. Joining Kallis on that list are five other South Africans with Faulkner at No 7, Eddie Barlow at No 10, Shaun Pollock (12th), Trevor Goddard (13th) and Brian McMillan (16th). Tony Greig, who left South Africa to play in England, is at No 14.

 Bacher and Williams have included Greig in their calculations as well as a number of other South Africans who did not get an opportunity to showcase their talents. Basil D’Oliveira had to leave South Africa before he could play and he was already getting on a bit by the time he was picked to play for England.

Two players who could have been right up with the best, if it had not been for South Africa’s expulsion from world cricket, are Mike Proctor and Clive Rice. Proctor played just seven Tests and Rice none, but their first class averages were good enough to have them included in South Africa’s top 13.

Talking to Rice at the book launch at St John’s College in Johannesburg on Tuesday night, the cricket great admitted to being a little bitter. “In a different way, I was also a victim of apartheid. That 1970s team was so strong that we had to work our butts off to get in. Players like myself, Vince van der Bijl, Jimmy Cook and Henry Fotheringham, all lost out on what could have been brilliant international careers.” 

The three remaining players included among the 13 best, were done so for their explosive ability and personalities – Lance Klusener, Tiger Lance and Jimmy Sinclair.

The book then devotes a chapter to each of the 13, with anecdotes about each one. There are some wonderful quotes from the late Tiger Lance who had a biting sense of humour and at times an awkward sense of right and wrong.  

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Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi

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More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.

Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.

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UJW Sewing School graduates model creations

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The outfits modelled by graduates of the Union of Jewish Women’s (UJW’s) Sewing School were all the more spectacular for the fact that some of their creators had never seen a sewing machine prior to the four-month course.

They were modelled at the school’s graduation ceremony at Oxford Shul on 15 December to much excitement and applause.

UJW executive member and Sewing School Manager Ariane Heneck expressed her gratitude to Chido Tsodzo, the school’s superb teacher, and the event ended with a much appreciated lunch for graduates and their invited guests.

The self-empowerment Sewing School for unemployed men and women was started by the UJW 10 years ago. It now has a small production team of ex-students, and some of its graduates have been employed in factories, while others are selling their own creations.

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Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke

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The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.

Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.

The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.

“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.

Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.

Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.

“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).

Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”

Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.

“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”

Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.

“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.

The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”

Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.

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