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January 11, 2009
To Australian cricket followers, Johan Botha is a strange choice as the captain of South Africa's limited-overs side. To his coach Mickey Arthur, Botha is a natural pick as a "leader of men". Last time Botha was seen in Australia was two years ago when he was cited for a suspect bowling action on his Test debut in Sydney.
A remodeled action was eventually cleared by the ICC but he is still a relative newcomer to international cricket, with 36 ODIs and two Tests to his name. But it was the way Botha fought through the problems with his bowling style and returned better for it that encouraged Arthur to trust him with the leadership in Graeme Smith's absence.
"He's come back a far stronger person after that and any guy that comes back from something like that has to be really mentally strong," Arthur said ahead of the first Twenty20 international in Melbourne. "That was one of the first signs I saw of the amount of leadership that this player has.
"I'm really glad that he's stepped up, he's come through all his trials and tribulations. He come back a much stronger player, and he's come back a leader of men, which is fantastic to see."
A regular in the South Africa ODI side over the past year, Botha is confident his troubles are behind him. "I've played the last 18 months all over the world and no-one's had any issue," Botha said. "What happened last time, like I always say, it had to happen. It was probably a good thing in the end, it really strengthened me."
Botha is still learning as an international captain, having led the side in three one-day internationals and a Twenty20 against Kenya and Bangladesh in October and November. He is in charge of a squad that features two men who have captained South Africa, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher, and he will also call on Neil McKenzie for advice on the field throughout the series.
Taking over from the inspirational Smith will be a huge task but Botha said he would simply try to be his own man. "Very big boots to fill," Botha said. "I think I'm not going to even try and compete with Graeme at this stage. He's done an awesome job. I'm just going to try and do it the way I do it and see how it goes."