Australia news March 31, 2012

Botha a 'natural-born leader' - Berry


South Australia's coach Darren Berry has described the state's new captain Johan Botha as a fierce, ruthless international competitor who will bring natural leadership qualities to the Redbacks. Botha will be released from his Cricket South Africa contract after the ICC World Twenty20 in September and will take up a two-year contract to lead South Australia, replacing Michael Klinger as captain.

The move was unexpected after Klinger in February led the Redbacks to their first one-day title in 25 years, but South Australia hope Botha will bring a fresh approach to a team that has won only one Sheffield Shield match in the past two seasons. Klinger said he was fully supportive of the move, which would allow him to focus solely on his batting.

"I loved every minute of captaining South Australia but I think for the betterment of South Australian cricket this decision will definitely help us go forward," Klinger told reporters in Adelaide. "He's a fantastic person, a disciplined character, which I think will be great for our group, and he's a very skilful cricketer. For him to come in and be part of the leadership group and captain our side will help us move forward."

Botha impressed the South Australian hierarchy with his on-field and off-field work for the Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League in December and January. He is regarded by Berry as the kind of man who can help the state's younger cricketers develop while holding down his own place in all formats with his offspin and solid batting.

"We worked with Botha during the Adelaide Strikers series and he had a really good impact on our playing group with his attitude and his leadership," Berry told ESPNcricinfo. "We were trying to secure him for next year for the Adelaide Strikers and as his one-day career with South Africa has probably tailed off in the last six weeks or so, an opportunity has come up.

"We feel that it was a wonderful opportunity to get someone of his experience and class to add to our mix. To come in and take the reins as captain as a pure outsider could be just the tonic to really help us improve and achieve what we want to in four-day cricket."

Botha has led South Africa in 10 ODIs and 11 Twenty20 internationals and his teams lost only five of those 21 matches. His role in the side is expected to vary depending on the availability of Nathan Lyon and his position will be more like that of the allrounder Aaron O'Brien, who has not been offered a South Australia contract for next summer after playing only two Shield games in 2011-12.

"We don't expect him to be a massive matchwinner for us, but what he is is a quality, ruthless international competitor," Berry said of Botha. "He's a jet in the field, he's more than adequate and solid with the bat, which we need in our middle order. He'll add some steel to our middle order, which constantly falls over. And his bowling will do a really serviceable job.

"The other good thing about it, and this is why Botha is such a good leader and good person, he's made it quite clear he will fit into the team wherever we need him to fit in. That means that whenever Nathan Lyon is available, there is no question that Nathan Lyon is the No.1 spinner and Botha will play as a batsman in those games and be the second spinner."

"What did Klinger do wrong? Absolutely nothing."
Darren Berry

"He's a cool head under pressure, he's a super-fierce competitor. He's captained his [South African] franchise, the Warriors. We played against him in two Champions League matches and were really impressed by his tactical nous and his knowledge of the game is first-class. When you talk cricket with him he's one of those natural-born leaders."

While Botha might take the position of a younger spinner like Cameron Williams, who made his first-class in February, Berry said the benefit the state's younger slow bowlers would benefit significantly from working with Botha. During 2011-12, the Redbacks used several spinners - Williams played one Shield game, O'Brien played two, Cullen Bailey played three and Lyon played two.

"We have some talented youngsters but they are a fair way off the mark," Berry said. "He'll be a good role model for them and almost like an on-the-job coach who will be able to assist them. We're getting him to assist on the field with the development side of our young players. We might play one of our young spinners alongside him so that he can lead them on the field as well. That was part of the appeal, the impact he will have on the younger players."

Berry said Botha's presence would be a major boost for the state's leadership on-field and off-field, with the development of a leadership group part of his plan with the squad. And Berry stressed that Klinger had done nothing wrong to prompt the move to Botha.

"What I'm trying to create is a culture of a core leadership group rather than what cricket has notoriously been about with the one sole figure-head," he said. "At South Australia we need a group of leaders if we're going to move forward. What did Klinger do wrong? Absolutely nothing. What we'd like Klinger to do is play cricket for Australia and continue to be a wonderful role model around our group, which he is. There was no issue with Klinger. It was just an opportunity to add an international captain to our mix."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 2, 2012, 14:33 GMT

    Captain the SA now coming here to captain SA.

  • luke on April 2, 2012, 12:44 GMT

    i'm up for it and if Klinger is cool with it, i'm cool with it. I'm with Berry, i wanna see Klinger have a crack at Aus selection too, but when/if it happens he won't be called up to be captain, so lets just let him play. (it's just the odour of the Andy Flower experience still in the air that concerns me).

  • Brenton on April 2, 2012, 12:43 GMT

    Botha will be South Australia's second string off-spinner and has one FC century to his name. What happened to the Australian way of picking the best team and selecting the captain from those players?

  • Liam on April 2, 2012, 12:20 GMT

    As a South Australian it's hard to put a finger on exactly why we are so poorly placed in the local competition. We don't win enough that's for sure but clearly the powers that be see SA's woes as a leadership question. From Botha's mediocre record I'm not sure what else he has going for him. This is a very disappointing move from the SACA an imported Captain is very different from an imported player, and the SACA may see what support remains for the SA team dwindle further.

  • Mark on April 2, 2012, 9:22 GMT

    A good move from South OZ. Botha is a hard worker and a never say die cricketer. He has loads of experience and is a good, solid captain. Why we never used him in the RSA team I will never know. IT was NOT a quota thing, but I think the number one spinner is going to Tahir and Botha is on the losing side, despite his record. South Africa's loss is Oz's gain.

  • Dummy4 on April 2, 2012, 7:47 GMT

    south australia need to really concentrate on developing young talent rather than get imports. i dont mind botha playing but captaincy seems a little too much. i think ferguson would have been a better captain. remember the RCB vs SA match in Bangalore last year, he captained the side and despite failing to win the match he got it really close.

  • Andrew on April 1, 2012, 23:50 GMT

    Pretty underwhelming decision, he is going to play as a batsmen with a FC ave of 34 & 1 ton in 67 FC games. Sth Oz would of been better off getting Younis Khan back! Oh well, I suppose if they win TWO Shield matches during his contract term, it is an improvement!

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2012, 8:52 GMT

    Here we go again. Another good player leaves because our selections are all about QUOTAS. Johan Botha was always good enough to play in 20/20 and 50/50 but we needed to balance up our team you know!! Maybe we will do better if our QUOTAS are all management and our team fully on merit. Oh no we will then go into bankruptcy and have no team???

  • rob on April 1, 2012, 7:28 GMT

    South African players and coaches are in high demand at the moment and I can understand that. .. I've worked with a few Saffers over the years and always been impressed with their competence. On the whole, pretty good blokes and if it can help the Redbacks I'm all for it... lets face it Redbacks, you need to harden the hell up, and a little injection of Saffer juju might just make it happen .... as far as the local "Talent" is concerned, it's up to them to knock the door down and force their way in. .. as it should be.

  • Warrick on March 31, 2012, 22:46 GMT

    @c_Marsh_b_Lillie- lol.....bravo!

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