Botha needs minor tweaks, says SA bowling coach
Vinnie Barnes, South Africa's bowling coach, insists Johan Botha remains an integral part of his team's World Twenty20 plans despite being cited for a suspected illegal bowling action. Barnes worked extensively with Botha after he was reported for chucking by Chris Broad, the match referee, after the Sydney Test of 2006, and believes only minor adjustments will be required to ensure his action is once again compliant with ICC regulations.
"I spoke to him today and we looked at a bit of video footage to see what the issue was," Barnes told Cricinfo. "I will be seeing him tomorrow and Thursday and I'm pretty confident we'll sort everything out. We'll get stuck in and get the action right again. It's quite basic stuff. It was just very disappointing to hear about it like this."
Botha has emerged as South Africa's most effective one-day spinner over the past 18 months, and was heralded for his role in captaining his nation to a rare limited-overs series victory in Australia earlier this year. It was the series when the South Africans officially usurped Australia as the No. 1 one-day side, and Botha's efforts with the ball - eight wickets at 23.50 - elevated him to No. 10 in the limited-overs bowling rankings. Only Muttiah Muraliatharan and Daniel Vettori have a higher ODI ranking among international spinners.
But, like Muralitharan, chucking furores have never been far away from Botha. Biomechanical tests conducted at the University of Western Australia in January, 2006, found his elbow flexion exceeded the 15-degree limit, prompting the ICC to suspend him. A further examination in September of that year found his action still to be illegal, but another round of tests eventually cleared him of chucking and allowed him to resume his international career.
Barnes, who worked to straighten Botha's unconventional bowling action three years ago, was adamant that another complete overhaul would not be required.
"The problem with Johan initially was that he was a medium-fast bowler who, because of injury, decided to bowl spin," Barnes said. "He adopted a fast bowler's action and applied it to spin, but biomechanically the two actions are quite different. We changed a few things that probably took, at the most, two or three days for him to get right.
"Johan has an amazing ability to adapt and change things quickly. I put a few recommendations to him, and he changed things quite easily. We have worked closely with him on this in the past, and we are quite confident that he will get through this and will be fine to carry on bowling. Right now we are waiting to hear more on the procedures that need to take place, but he is still very much a part of our plans. There is no doubt that he has the support of the team, the management and myself."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo