Malibongwe Maketa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
- Proteas interim coach Malibongwe Maketa is priming his charges to expect drama in the Australian Test series, but not to get distracted by it.
- Already, there’s been a big focus on the ball-tampering saga of 2018, which Maketa says is something his team has moved on from years ago.
- Maketa has been encouraged by the energy shown by squad members who were part of the chastening T20 World Cup campaign.
Expect some drama, just don’t get sucked in by its vortex.
That’s Proteas interim Test coach Malibongwe Maketa’s message to his players as they settle in for the three-match series against Australia starting later this month.
Hype has been ramped up by the wily hosts and its media again with a specific focus on the 2018 series in South Africa, the last time the two countries played red-ball cricket against each other and a skirmish blighted by the sandpaper ball-tampering scandal as well as Quinton de Kock and David Warner’s changeroom bust-up.
And it certainly hasn’t helped that Faf du Plessis and Tim Paine’s respective, recently released autobiographies refer to the series extensively.
For Maketa’s squad, however, there’s no reason to dig up the past simply because only six of the squad of 16 were involved.
“For us, [we’ve definitely moved on], especially this group of players,” Maketa said on Tuesday.
“Only a handful of us were involved in that series and I know it changed people’s careers, but for us being on the other side of the spectrum it was an unfortunate incident and really something that happened way back when.
“We’re really just looking forward to this opportunity. We want to compete against a strong team.”
However, it’s highly likely that the past can’t be raked up, then a new issue (or non-issue for that matter) will crop up and perhaps distract from the on-field action.
It’s why Maketa isn’t in denial about such a dynamic developing.
“It’s difficult, but experience tells us each series has its hiccups in terms of a bit of drama,” he said.
“Mentally, it’s about what’s required to win. That’s our driving force. Whatever comes up we have personnel and support for the team to deal with whatever situation we encounter.”
A more pressing matter for him has been to help the members that were part of the T20 World Cup regain focus after that chastening campaign and Maketa has done so by making them have active cricketing conversations.
And he believes laying down that marker is paying off.
“It’s a different format. We have made sure mentally and physically the guys got a longer break. The focus is about how we’re going to win this series. The guys who were involved in the T20 World Cup have contributed in many ways, especially conditions. We’ve been challenging them to put energy into the team, which they’ve done,” said Maketa.
“It being Test cricket, there’s different pressures and the mental switch has happened earlier than usual when one considers the body language. It’s been really positive for us.”