South Africa arrange Swiss bonding trip
South Africa will prepare their attempt to dethrone England at the top of the Test rankings by walking among glaciers and cycling through forests in central Europe, before they start their usual net sessions. The squad will spend four days next week with explorer Mike Horn in his home town of Chateau d'Oex in Switzerland as part of a team-building exercise.
Horn, who circumnavigated the globe without motor transport in the year 2000, has worked with South Africa's coach Gary Kirsten before. He conducted motivational talks with the India team before last year's World Cup and many of them said Horn played a significant part in the victory. Kirsten may be hoping for a little of the same for South Africa, who will become the No.1 Test team if they beat England in the three-match series.
"It's something a different and a little bit out of the box but when you are in management you have to think out of the box," Kirsten said. "This will give us an opportunity to connect as people. We know we are going to be under pressure in England and we hope to be able to apply that same pressure back."
The series is being talked about as the biggest of the year and the mini-break in the Swiss skiing town has been planned to get the team mentally prepared for the challenge that awaits. "There's going to be a lot of hype, but for us, it won't be as much as the last time we toured in 2008," Mohammed Moosajee, South Africa's team manager, said. "We know that we've been there and won before, so it's not unchartered territory, but the margins will be small and that's why this and someone like [mental conditioning consultant] Paddy Upton will help."
Getting time away from the game was another reason for the adventure escape. South Africa will spend almost three months in England, followed immediately by the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, so team management decided more practice time was unnecessary. "We'll have time in England before the first Test starts so we had to decide whether we wanted more net time or if we wanted to something else and we thought this would be a good exercise," Moosajee said.
South Africa arrive in England on July 6 and will play a two-day match against Somerset and a three-day fixture against Kent before the first Test at the Oval, starting on July 19. All the squad has had game time since the tour of New Zealand in February and March - be it in the IPL or the tri-series with Zimbabwe and Bangladesh - except Graeme Smith, Imran Tahir and Mark Boucher. Smith has spent the last few months recovering from ankle surgery, while Boucher's only engagement was a T20 in Canada where he represented a World XI.
Tahir chose not to play for an English county and instead spent time in his native Lahore consulting with Abdul Qadir. As a result, Tahir will likely not make the trip to Switzerland and will play for South Africa against Sri Lanka A in a four-day match in Durban before joining up with the squad in England. "We worked on getting a balance between guys having time off and game time," Moosajee said. "Imran will arrive in England before the warm-up matches so he will have match time there as well."
South Africa play more tour matches than Tests, with four in their schedule, and Kirsten said he is still undecided on whether they are beneficial or not but admitted it relies on individual preference. "I actually preferred no warm up games and to go straight into the Test matches," he said. "Because I believed I only had a certain number of innings that I was going to make runs in and I didn't want to waste them in a warm-up game. But some guys are different, they enjoy it."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent