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.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 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.

  • greig 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.

  • Tim 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.

  • Shanmugam 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 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.

  • Dummy4 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.

  • Jacob 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)!

  • Siva 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.

  • Shanmugam 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.

  • Dummy4 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.

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