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."
"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