August 17, 2013

'Put in the hard yards and you'll get rewards'

Interview by Jack Wilson
Vernon Philander stresses the importance of working on your skills, but he's not a big fan of being called the new McGrath
25

The start of your Test career was immense. You took 50 wickets in your first seven matches - the second-fastest ever. That's some record, isn't it?
It came down to the hard work prior to that. In the end the hard work pays off. You go through a lot in the years leading up to playing for your country. If you put it in, you get your rewards. Success isn't guaranteed. Put in the hard yards and that's what comes.

Is that the secret - hard work?
Yes, hard work pays off. You have to spend time getting your skills up to standard. Hard work makes me appreciate things I achieve a lot more. The more and more I achieve the better it makes me feel. I want to keep making things happen, going forward too.

Are you someone who's into their stats?
I'm not into stats, no.

So if I asked you how many Test wickets you'd taken, would you know?
I just take each game at a time. I play each time to try and take the team across the line - that's what I'm worried about.

What's the strangest game you've ever played in?
We bowled New Zealand out for 45 on the first day of a Test, which was crazy, but my debut - the win over Australia - was the most bizarre. To bowl them out for 47 in the second innings and then knock off the runs was a good game to be a part of.

Last year Allan Donald said the bowling attack - with you in it - was the best ever. How did that make you feel?
(Laughs) It was great to hear that, especially coming from him. As far as we're concerned, as a bowling unit we just try and take 20 wickets a game. The more we do it, the more people may rave about us. Getting teams out is our job and we take pride in doing so.

You've been dubbed "the new Glenn McGrath" by some. That's high praise.
I've heard some people say that, but I'm not too concerned what people call me. I just focus on my game, and as long as I go out and produce the goods, I'm happy. Personally I don't like it but it's not a bad compliment.

If you could go back in time and bowl at one batsman from the past, who would it be?
Jeez, that's tough. I'd say my school mates. A few were highly rated at school level and for me it's important to be humble and remember where you came from.

Who's the messiest player in the South Africa dressing room?
The boys are generally pretty good. The bowlers - me, Dale Steyn and Morne [Morkel] - tend to unpack all our kit. It's not untidy, though. It's all together.

And the funniest?
Morne Morkel tells lots of old-time stories and jokes, I'll give it to him.

Who hits the ball the furthest?
There are a few strikers in that team, huh? I'd say, from the Test side, it's AB [de Villiers]. He can hit it pretty clean and pretty far.

If I gave you a ball and you had six balls to bowl at one stump, how many times would you hit?
Probably none! (Laughs) Seriously, well, it depends on the conditions. I've got to back myself. I'd say I'd hit it two out of six times.

How do you spend your time away from cricket?
I'll be on the golf course most of the time. That's where I like to go. The golf course or a wildlife park.

What's your handicap?
I play off a horrible five.

Where's the best place to play cricket in the world?
There's only one place, isn't there? Cape Town. There's no better setting than that. Although I enjoy it wherever I go. It's always a different experience playing against different players and seeing people from different cultures. It's special to travel the world.

What's the first piece of advice you'd give to a young fast bowler?
I'd say to the young guns out there: try and enhance your skills to a level in which you understand them. Once you understand your action and once you understand what you are trying to do with the ball, you can showcase it to the world. Go out there and put in the hard yards.

Favourite shot?
Pull shot.

Does cricket ever pop up in your dreams?
No, not really, although I had one prior to my debut.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on August 22, 2013, 9:02 GMT

    just want to mention that steyn has the best strike rate. Pity alan Donald played when he did and had a short career. Fanie de Villiers as well. Shan156 why are you so bitter towards SA players.

  • TommytuckerSaffa on August 20, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    Big Vern faster to 50 Test wickets than that miserable Ozzie trundler and fastest to 50 wickets than anyone in 100 years !!!! Go Vern Go.

  • DeckChairand6pack on August 19, 2013, 13:45 GMT

    There is no way there would have been anyone within the South African cricketing fraternity making this comparison. We have enough past heroes to look up to, so yes, the foreign media is responsible for this 'journalism by numbers' comparison. McGrath has a pedigree and proven track record second to none earned over a long career under all conditions. Vern is a late bloomer and his frequent injuries mean he may only have a much shorter career. He looks like an unmade bed running up to the crease, but often it's the batters that end up looking ungainly. He's an integral part of the Green Machine's bowling attack that took us to number one, and while he is fit and playing he is going to take a lot more wickets.

  • Shan156 on August 18, 2013, 16:06 GMT

    oh, so are you suggesting that SA have players who are as good as McGrath? There is not one single SA bowler who compares remotely close to the great Aussie. McGrath played for 14 years, took 563 wicketse, and has a great average against all countries everywhere. His worst average is in Pak. where it is 31, still not bad. To put that in perspective, your great Steyn averages over 30 in Eng (31.65, even Zaheer has better #s in Eng), SL (36.5), and UAE (46.33, lol).

    cricinfo, please publish.

  • Soso_killer on August 18, 2013, 6:27 GMT

    @Shan156 can you quote South African fans comparing Philander to McGrath?

    Philander in SA has always been described as a line and length bowler and he even described S. Pollock as someone he looked up to as a youngster. And comparisons between him and Poly were made on the basis of him bowling a nagging line and length even though height is not the same. It is the lazy international media that compared him to McGrath after the England tour, not South African fans or its media. Now the funny thing is how they mocked him prior to that tour, something like "England had 4 or 5 players like him in the county". Why would SA fans give two hoots about McGrath when they have their own local heros to look up to or make comparisons? There is no hype whatsoever in South Africa and never will be otherwise Steyn and Kallis would take that claim (who are not hyped themselves), not Philander who has barely played 15 tests.

  • on August 17, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    When I first saw Philander in 2007, I thought of him as an average bowler who could bowl a bit. I was a bit unhappy when he was preferred to Tsotsobe in the first test of the 2011 series between Australia and South Africa. But he showed the world what he is capable of on that match! Australia were blown away for 47 in their 2nd innings thanks to this man. He bowled brilliantly and has been doing so ever since. I am waiting to see him bowl in Asia; that will be the ultimate test of his skills. I hope he has a long and successful career.

  • Brahams on August 17, 2013, 18:41 GMT

    Really, 2nd slip? The whole thing was started by the English and Aussies - just wait till so and so comes to the La La land. To be a great, sub-continent success is indeed needed - it amounts to lucid logic. The logic also says that sub-continent success alone wouldn't make anyone a great. While McGrath is a great, Vernon is not (yet)!

  • SivaSurapaneni on August 17, 2013, 17:54 GMT

    Philander is an excelent bowler. The most impressive fact is his hard work, humble and down to earth personality and his piece of advice to youngsters to do the hard yards.

  • Shan156 on August 17, 2013, 15:59 GMT

    Philander is the new McGrath? What a joke and what an insult to one of the greatest seamer ever. SA fans love to hype their players to the sky. Well, they are winning now, aren't they? Philander has had a great start to his career but he has not played a single test in the SC. I thought with his pace, he will be cannon fodder in Australia. It was proved in the 1st test before injury saved him in the 2nd. He redeemed himself with couple of cheap wickets in each innings in the last test. He still ended up with an average close to 50. Wait till he plays a test in the SC and we will see how great a bowler he is. McGrath proved himself in every country for more than a decade and took 563 wickets. This man has not taken 100 yet. His record till date is terrific but he has a long way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as the legend McGrath.

  • on August 17, 2013, 14:59 GMT

    You can say what you want about Vern. He's the second fastest to get to 50 wickets in the history of cricket. The fastest in almost 120 years. You can mention the who's-who like Muralitheran, McGrath, Warne, Lillee, a bunch of Windies, Pollock, Hadlee, etc and he got there faster than all of them. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • on August 22, 2013, 9:02 GMT

    just want to mention that steyn has the best strike rate. Pity alan Donald played when he did and had a short career. Fanie de Villiers as well. Shan156 why are you so bitter towards SA players.

  • TommytuckerSaffa on August 20, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    Big Vern faster to 50 Test wickets than that miserable Ozzie trundler and fastest to 50 wickets than anyone in 100 years !!!! Go Vern Go.

  • DeckChairand6pack on August 19, 2013, 13:45 GMT

    There is no way there would have been anyone within the South African cricketing fraternity making this comparison. We have enough past heroes to look up to, so yes, the foreign media is responsible for this 'journalism by numbers' comparison. McGrath has a pedigree and proven track record second to none earned over a long career under all conditions. Vern is a late bloomer and his frequent injuries mean he may only have a much shorter career. He looks like an unmade bed running up to the crease, but often it's the batters that end up looking ungainly. He's an integral part of the Green Machine's bowling attack that took us to number one, and while he is fit and playing he is going to take a lot more wickets.

  • Shan156 on August 18, 2013, 16:06 GMT

    oh, so are you suggesting that SA have players who are as good as McGrath? There is not one single SA bowler who compares remotely close to the great Aussie. McGrath played for 14 years, took 563 wicketse, and has a great average against all countries everywhere. His worst average is in Pak. where it is 31, still not bad. To put that in perspective, your great Steyn averages over 30 in Eng (31.65, even Zaheer has better #s in Eng), SL (36.5), and UAE (46.33, lol).

    cricinfo, please publish.

  • Soso_killer on August 18, 2013, 6:27 GMT

    @Shan156 can you quote South African fans comparing Philander to McGrath?

    Philander in SA has always been described as a line and length bowler and he even described S. Pollock as someone he looked up to as a youngster. And comparisons between him and Poly were made on the basis of him bowling a nagging line and length even though height is not the same. It is the lazy international media that compared him to McGrath after the England tour, not South African fans or its media. Now the funny thing is how they mocked him prior to that tour, something like "England had 4 or 5 players like him in the county". Why would SA fans give two hoots about McGrath when they have their own local heros to look up to or make comparisons? There is no hype whatsoever in South Africa and never will be otherwise Steyn and Kallis would take that claim (who are not hyped themselves), not Philander who has barely played 15 tests.

  • on August 17, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    When I first saw Philander in 2007, I thought of him as an average bowler who could bowl a bit. I was a bit unhappy when he was preferred to Tsotsobe in the first test of the 2011 series between Australia and South Africa. But he showed the world what he is capable of on that match! Australia were blown away for 47 in their 2nd innings thanks to this man. He bowled brilliantly and has been doing so ever since. I am waiting to see him bowl in Asia; that will be the ultimate test of his skills. I hope he has a long and successful career.

  • Brahams on August 17, 2013, 18:41 GMT

    Really, 2nd slip? The whole thing was started by the English and Aussies - just wait till so and so comes to the La La land. To be a great, sub-continent success is indeed needed - it amounts to lucid logic. The logic also says that sub-continent success alone wouldn't make anyone a great. While McGrath is a great, Vernon is not (yet)!

  • SivaSurapaneni on August 17, 2013, 17:54 GMT

    Philander is an excelent bowler. The most impressive fact is his hard work, humble and down to earth personality and his piece of advice to youngsters to do the hard yards.

  • Shan156 on August 17, 2013, 15:59 GMT

    Philander is the new McGrath? What a joke and what an insult to one of the greatest seamer ever. SA fans love to hype their players to the sky. Well, they are winning now, aren't they? Philander has had a great start to his career but he has not played a single test in the SC. I thought with his pace, he will be cannon fodder in Australia. It was proved in the 1st test before injury saved him in the 2nd. He redeemed himself with couple of cheap wickets in each innings in the last test. He still ended up with an average close to 50. Wait till he plays a test in the SC and we will see how great a bowler he is. McGrath proved himself in every country for more than a decade and took 563 wickets. This man has not taken 100 yet. His record till date is terrific but he has a long way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as the legend McGrath.

  • on August 17, 2013, 14:59 GMT

    You can say what you want about Vern. He's the second fastest to get to 50 wickets in the history of cricket. The fastest in almost 120 years. You can mention the who's-who like Muralitheran, McGrath, Warne, Lillee, a bunch of Windies, Pollock, Hadlee, etc and he got there faster than all of them. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on August 17, 2013, 14:24 GMT

    Good to see he doesn't 'mind' being compared to the greatest fast bowler McGrath - well,best of all F/M seamers at least in 130-140 kph range if not in the Lee ,Thommo league of thrill-a-min tearawys -,much better bowlers - and there are a few around this time like Pattinson ,Starc, Cummins,Junaid, '10 ft !' Irfan, even Boult ,Southee of NZ to just name some exciting young pacers and there are likes of Siddle ,Steyn ,Harris etc who by far are the best - won't shy admitting being a bit embarrassed at the compliment.Coming to Philander,got to give the man all the credit and he does I think deserve most if not all of them for his stats and records are just fantastic as it gets and none can argue against .Not get me wrong, think Vern is a very,very fine seamler but got lot of limitations with avg. height,pace just 125- 130 mostly, fitness. Even then he has the stats to back him is credit worthy.Big test awaits in subcont., flatter tracks.But,do see him enjoy himself vs Ind later in year.

  • smalishah84 on August 17, 2013, 12:22 GMT

    haha...I enjoyed reading it. He doesn't like being referred to as the new McGrath....but knows it is a HUGE compliment

  • on August 17, 2013, 12:11 GMT

    One thing going for Mcgrath was movement of the seam. He was not into this swing business, except perhaps very late on in his career. Plus his accuracy was superb. Adding to the pressure on batsmen would be the fact that the Aussies would always have put on /likely to put on 450 plus on the board. Plus they were a superb fielding side.Batsmen could feel the pressure of no quarter being given. Added to this was the fact that there was no weaklink in the bowling. The likes of Gillespie, Warne, Macgill, Lee , Kasprowicz, etc would keep coming relentlessly.Try putting Mcgrath in a weaker team. Would he have had the same kind of impact? No one knows. But there are some bowlers like Akram, Warne , Murali,Malcolm Marshall,Hadlee, and our own Kapil and Kumble, whom you know will take wickets irrespective of all these factors.

  • on August 17, 2013, 11:28 GMT

    How long will people keep saying "Just wait until..." when it comes to Philander? First it was, "Just wait until he plays outside of SA," and then he played in New Zealand and proved them wrong. Then it was, "Just wait until he plays in England," and the same thing happened." Now it's, "Just wait until he plays in the sub-continent." When are people going to stop 'just waiting' for him to fail and just enjoy watching what he does?

  • Jaffa79 on August 17, 2013, 11:17 GMT

    Philander is a very fine bowler and one of the best going around but why is any bowler who is fairly accurate called the 'new McGrath'. Ridiculous. Same as any Aussie leggie will be the 'new Warne' or poor unfortunate blokes like David Capel, Chris Lewis or Craig White being called the 'new Ian Botham'. Boring, lazy journalism.

  • on August 17, 2013, 9:38 GMT

    He's never been to Asian Pitches.It is fair chance that he will injured himself before Pakistan Series.

  • on August 17, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    really now people the guy is no mcgrath he knows it too,but hes a fantastic bowler so far. the criticism is unwarranted

  • 2nd_Slip on August 17, 2013, 9:25 GMT

    Easilly the second best bowler in the world at the moment(second only to Steyn of cause) and they are miles ahead of the rest(Anderson averages in the 30s which is nothing to wright home about-in fact its very ridiculous that people mention him in the same breath as Steyn). Find it very funny when Indian and subcontinent fans come up with the "...lets see how he performs in the subcontinent then, we will see if he is great or not..."(that mentality is the very same mentality that makes India tigers at home but down right pussy cats away from home). Wish philander a very successful career, the English doubted him and he showed them what he is made of, the Aussies feared him and Steyn and resorted to flat pitches, wish he also proves Indians wrong when he tours there in the future after all if Buv Kumar & Zaheer Khan can be useful with their medium pacers, Vernon can be twice as useful .

  • Westmorlandia on August 17, 2013, 9:10 GMT

    I'm not quite sure I understand the criticism from some of the comments, to be honest. He isn't a new McGrath, but he is a class act all of his own. He can only play the matches that are scheduled, and he's been extremely formidable in those. He has compared well against Steyn in those games (though they're different kinds of bowlers). What else should or could he have been doing?

    The sub-continent is harder for swing bowlers, but most of his cricket will be played elsewhere so it won't define him. It will just reveal a more complete picture. Personally I think he'll do very well, because he has excellent control of the fundamentals - his line and his length.

  • WAKE_UP_CALL on August 17, 2013, 8:17 GMT

    Philander is a good bowler and effective but there is a catch that he will be easily played on unresponsive pitches.When a batsman is judged great when he scores only where bowlers have some support why is it not the same judgement for the bowlers too.The fact of the matter is currently apart from steyn,anderson there is no real threat in international cricket.Its just that the standard technique and temperament to stay long on the wicket has really gone downside.there is going to be loads of test wickets in the coming decade and test matches with results and home white washes .

  • WAKE_UP_CALL on August 17, 2013, 7:37 GMT

    New Mcgrath .Wait a second .Is something wrong with the world mcgrath was just not some medium pacer with line and length .He was much much more than that.First of all he was the main strike bowler who always challenged the best batsman whereas philander is happy to be bowling to poor batting sides like (australia,pakistan,new zealand) and on what pitches(home doctored juicy).Fact is his worth was known in aus 2012 series flat decks by just two batsman clarke and hussey.england again heaven for some good swing bowlers.Mcgrath was a rock start in sub continent as he was outside.he was feared by even the most technically correct batsman since he was always on the face and produced unplayable deliveries

  • on August 17, 2013, 6:34 GMT

    Till now it has been smooth sailing for Vernon Philander. His true test is to prove himself consistently on sub continent wickets, where you need to have sheer pace or swing- reverse swing to be particular. Maybe there is a question mark there. Remember no one touched him during the IPL auction. Plus it would be also interesting to see what he does without the pressure exerted by Dale Steyn at the other end. Come on Philander prove us wrong.

  • on August 17, 2013, 5:38 GMT

    @kamlesh Chauhan - very well said. Fact is Indian pacers (generally) slip so suddenly because they are over paid, and get too much hyphe. Plus when someone earns a million in IPl, why work hard to improve yourself internationally. That is the mentality of most Indian pacers.

  • landl47 on August 17, 2013, 4:21 GMT

    Good, sensible answers. Why does everyone (Jackson Bird is another) who can bowl a decent line and length get called 'the new McGrath'? Philander is nothing like McGrath and doesn't get his wickets in the same way at all.

    He's made a great start to his career, but international batsmen have a way of figuring bowlers out (and vice versa). Let's see where he is in, say, 3 years from now. If he can continue to add variation to his repertoire, he could become a great medium-pacer.

  • on August 17, 2013, 4:02 GMT

    "Once you understand your action, you can showcase it to the world" absolutely true. Zaheer did the same when he came back from his county stint with Worcs after 2006 summers. Akram was known to do it, Warne was master of it. This is a fact for not only cricket but for life. I think being dropped after making an ODI debut worked very well for him personally. Pacers from subcontinent generally lack the attitude- working very hard to polish the required skills. May be they are getting it too easily. Vermon got it late (after missing it once) but he is making it count, incredible record especially considering the fact that he has to bowl with Steyn, harder than it looks-expectations!! New Mcgrath tag is not a bad one but if years later someone is called "new Philander" for his skills then that'll be something :) Keep working hard, keep taking wickets :)

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  • on August 17, 2013, 4:02 GMT

    "Once you understand your action, you can showcase it to the world" absolutely true. Zaheer did the same when he came back from his county stint with Worcs after 2006 summers. Akram was known to do it, Warne was master of it. This is a fact for not only cricket but for life. I think being dropped after making an ODI debut worked very well for him personally. Pacers from subcontinent generally lack the attitude- working very hard to polish the required skills. May be they are getting it too easily. Vermon got it late (after missing it once) but he is making it count, incredible record especially considering the fact that he has to bowl with Steyn, harder than it looks-expectations!! New Mcgrath tag is not a bad one but if years later someone is called "new Philander" for his skills then that'll be something :) Keep working hard, keep taking wickets :)

  • landl47 on August 17, 2013, 4:21 GMT

    Good, sensible answers. Why does everyone (Jackson Bird is another) who can bowl a decent line and length get called 'the new McGrath'? Philander is nothing like McGrath and doesn't get his wickets in the same way at all.

    He's made a great start to his career, but international batsmen have a way of figuring bowlers out (and vice versa). Let's see where he is in, say, 3 years from now. If he can continue to add variation to his repertoire, he could become a great medium-pacer.

  • on August 17, 2013, 5:38 GMT

    @kamlesh Chauhan - very well said. Fact is Indian pacers (generally) slip so suddenly because they are over paid, and get too much hyphe. Plus when someone earns a million in IPl, why work hard to improve yourself internationally. That is the mentality of most Indian pacers.

  • on August 17, 2013, 6:34 GMT

    Till now it has been smooth sailing for Vernon Philander. His true test is to prove himself consistently on sub continent wickets, where you need to have sheer pace or swing- reverse swing to be particular. Maybe there is a question mark there. Remember no one touched him during the IPL auction. Plus it would be also interesting to see what he does without the pressure exerted by Dale Steyn at the other end. Come on Philander prove us wrong.

  • WAKE_UP_CALL on August 17, 2013, 7:37 GMT

    New Mcgrath .Wait a second .Is something wrong with the world mcgrath was just not some medium pacer with line and length .He was much much more than that.First of all he was the main strike bowler who always challenged the best batsman whereas philander is happy to be bowling to poor batting sides like (australia,pakistan,new zealand) and on what pitches(home doctored juicy).Fact is his worth was known in aus 2012 series flat decks by just two batsman clarke and hussey.england again heaven for some good swing bowlers.Mcgrath was a rock start in sub continent as he was outside.he was feared by even the most technically correct batsman since he was always on the face and produced unplayable deliveries

  • WAKE_UP_CALL on August 17, 2013, 8:17 GMT

    Philander is a good bowler and effective but there is a catch that he will be easily played on unresponsive pitches.When a batsman is judged great when he scores only where bowlers have some support why is it not the same judgement for the bowlers too.The fact of the matter is currently apart from steyn,anderson there is no real threat in international cricket.Its just that the standard technique and temperament to stay long on the wicket has really gone downside.there is going to be loads of test wickets in the coming decade and test matches with results and home white washes .

  • Westmorlandia on August 17, 2013, 9:10 GMT

    I'm not quite sure I understand the criticism from some of the comments, to be honest. He isn't a new McGrath, but he is a class act all of his own. He can only play the matches that are scheduled, and he's been extremely formidable in those. He has compared well against Steyn in those games (though they're different kinds of bowlers). What else should or could he have been doing?

    The sub-continent is harder for swing bowlers, but most of his cricket will be played elsewhere so it won't define him. It will just reveal a more complete picture. Personally I think he'll do very well, because he has excellent control of the fundamentals - his line and his length.

  • 2nd_Slip on August 17, 2013, 9:25 GMT

    Easilly the second best bowler in the world at the moment(second only to Steyn of cause) and they are miles ahead of the rest(Anderson averages in the 30s which is nothing to wright home about-in fact its very ridiculous that people mention him in the same breath as Steyn). Find it very funny when Indian and subcontinent fans come up with the "...lets see how he performs in the subcontinent then, we will see if he is great or not..."(that mentality is the very same mentality that makes India tigers at home but down right pussy cats away from home). Wish philander a very successful career, the English doubted him and he showed them what he is made of, the Aussies feared him and Steyn and resorted to flat pitches, wish he also proves Indians wrong when he tours there in the future after all if Buv Kumar & Zaheer Khan can be useful with their medium pacers, Vernon can be twice as useful .

  • on August 17, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    really now people the guy is no mcgrath he knows it too,but hes a fantastic bowler so far. the criticism is unwarranted

  • on August 17, 2013, 9:38 GMT

    He's never been to Asian Pitches.It is fair chance that he will injured himself before Pakistan Series.