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

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.