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World Cup 2011

van Wyk benefits from change in technique

Firdose Moonda in Nagpur

March 8, 2011

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A

Morne van Wyk sweeps on his way to a match-winning 136, Sri Lanka A v South Africa A, tri-series final, SSC, Colombo, September 6, 2010
Morne van Wyk: " My strike rate was up and I've had so many different shots since then" © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Players/Officials: Morne van Wyk
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: South Africa

It was only 18 months ago that Morne van Wyk felt the need to fundamentally alter his batting technique. After eight seasons with a first-class average over 40, he was in a rut, having had it dip to under 30 for a season and under 20 for the next three. His limited-overs form was better, not having reached the same lows, but he thought it was teetering on the edge of a downward spiral because of a self-confessed "ugly" style.

"I was watching players like Boeta Dippenaar bat, so pretty and so graceful and so elegant. When I tried to bat like that, it was still ugly and it was also ineffective," he said. Something had to change and van Wyk wasn't sure what until he came with the Eagles franchise to India for the Champions League T20 in October 2009.

Twenty-over cricket is seldom the source for an improvement in technique but in van Wyk's case it was. "We had long breaks between games, so I would sit in my hotel room and watch Adam Gilchrist bat, especially to see how he hit the ball in the air," van Wyk said. "I was not hitting it in the air much; I was mostly keeping it on the carpet." He noticed that Gilchrist kept his hands quite high up on the handle of the bat, which allowed for a greater range of movement and more use of the wrists.

On returning home to Bloemfontein, van Wyk decided to try for himself. He explained it to his batting coach, Adri Swanepoel, who spent a week throwing underarm to him in the nets. That Friday he would test the new technique in a match situation, a forty-over game against the Lions. The result: 168 not out off 125 balls.

"My balance was better and instead of just hitting the ball over mid-wicket, I could also hit it over the covers and mid-off. It opened up the whole field for me," he said. "We carried on with underarm drills for the next few months, my strike rate was up and I've had so many different shots since then. He says his batting is still not "poetry in motion" but at least it's now effective.

World Cup watchers have not been able to see much of van Wyk's technique, which also includes an unusually high backlift. He batted just once, in South Africa's six-run loss to England. When he arrived at the crease, it wasn't a stage for performance art but a hole that required grit to get out of. When the team lost three wickets with the score on 124, in search of 172 to win, van Wyk was the most senior batsman at the crease. "I felt pretty confident that I would take it through to the end," he said.

Although he was unable to do that, he showed that the kind of composure that, on a different day, might have yielded a different result. What was most important is that van Wyk experienced, first hand, the kind of pressure that soared higher than the temperature in Chennai and didn't panic, as some of his counterparts have in the past. "I was relishing it out there," he admitted.

van Wyk appreciated the difficulty of the situation and instead of blaming the surface for crumbling, spinning and offering reverse swing, he embraced it, even saying it prepared him for more like it in future. "I don't think all the pitches will be like that but as the squares deteriorate, we might get that again and now we will know how to play on it."

His self-assurance cannot be mistaken for arrogance and he has managed to strike exactly the right chord of confidence without sounding self-important or gloating. It's the depth of his belief in his own ability, combined with the humility to always play it down, that makes him so vital to this South African team. It makes him the kind of person who can be told at lunch that he will have to be the wicket-keeper in the second half of the match, as it happened between South Africa and the Netherlands in Mohali. With no fuss and bother, he put on the gloves and got on with the job, while AB de Villiers was allowed to rest his stiff back. "I didn't expect to keep so soon in the tournament but with AB being the in-form guy, the management is doing everything possible to make sure that he keeps scoring runs."

van Wyk did not come into this tournament as one of the automatic picks for the starting XI and even said that he would be happy to just carry the drinks if he had to. Now, he's had a taste of what playing in a World Cup feels like and "once you experience it, you want to hang onto it." It's one of the reasons that he wants to continually make adjustments to the way he does things, so that he is at forefront of the selectors' minds. "I would have taken out an extra bond on my house to be here. I've got a passion for the game."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Comments: 17 
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Posted by Duncan on (March 10, 2011, 20:06 GMT)

Nice article, I am just pleased that Morne has an opening in the SA team, HE is the guy to replace Boucher, let AB be a batsman. I was also pleased to see how Morne was composed in his approach to pressure where Faf panicked and got himself run out. Does SA not need more experience down the order, bring the young guns in as openers/ #3 / #4?

Posted by diren on (March 9, 2011, 10:34 GMT)

@soumyas i really dont mind meeting the aussies in the quarter finalls, rather them than Srilanka or pakistan

Posted by Mansoor on (March 9, 2011, 8:32 GMT)

I really think there is a serious problem with South Africa's Middle order,with the loss of Mark Boucher, they certainly miss a hitter lower down the order who could counter attack when pressurized...Australians have many,could be johnson..india has yusuf..pak has razzak and afridi(RARELY NOWDAYS!)..i regard this as the reason why S.A lost to the englishmen..

Posted by Craig on (March 9, 2011, 7:27 GMT)

van Wyk's a natural opener, and has been shifted down the order to allow Smith to keep his place in the order. Those of us who know him in SA know that he is a good leader and can be a brutal batsman once he's in. So he failed in the game against England. Give him more of a run, and he won't fail us when the chips are down. On pure form, he is a better option right now than Smith!

Posted by soumyas on (March 9, 2011, 6:54 GMT)

He shud have tried to HIT the ball out of ground in the match vs England, SA were just 1 HIT away, steyn batted positively, this match result might affect their World Cup run in the 2nd round, they might end up facing Australia in quarters,

Posted by soumyas on (March 9, 2011, 6:49 GMT)

He scorred 67 of 39 balls in T20 vs india, so his improvised gilly style suits for opening innings. with Smith strggling to get quick runs in Power plays, Van Wyk can open innings with amla, Smith can come at No.3 or no. 4 where he can rotate strike. It wud be getting the best of Van wyk, Smith.

Posted by Muthuvel on (March 8, 2011, 20:23 GMT)

he batted well against india last tour, seems a good cricketer. and the stuff about still looking ugly was funny, good that he is back to his own effective ugly ways. and by probability it has to be sa or nz this time no other team.

Posted by fabian on (March 8, 2011, 19:14 GMT)

You got the right idea Morne.If you want to learn how to hit the ball in the air and hit it far then Gilchrist is the guy to watch. Hope you do well for your team unless of course you're playing against Pakistan. But then I guess if you do edge one behind you're pretty safe with Kamran Akmal the chief fluffer!!

Posted by Rohan on (March 8, 2011, 18:59 GMT)

I thought i had my say on this bloke, seems it wasnt published, havent seen in him what the selectors saw to replace a guy like mark boucher

Posted by g on (March 8, 2011, 17:05 GMT)

In the match against Eng he seemed to attemp to cut every single ball. I was impressed by his outing in T20 against Ind a few months ago, but was disappointing to see that he was not even rotating strike - I feel he could have easily got those 6 runs (by which they lost) had he been more keen on minimizing dot balls. Good luck for next matches....

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