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Fri Apr 18 20:14:56 SAST 2014

Philander blows away preconceptions

TEAMtalk Media | 07 June, 2012 11:190 Comments
Vernon Philander receives his Test cricketer of the Year award during the South African cricket awards at Sandton Convention Centre on June 06, 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Image by: Lee Warren / Gallo Images

Test cricket - its players, its fans and in particular its media - have run out of new ways to explain Vernon Philander's outrageous success.

We know all about his excellent control, that he 'does just enough' with the ball to cause serious problems for batsmen and that although he is not express pace, he bowls a heavy ball. Team-mates have likened him to Glenn McGrath; opponents to Mohammad Asif. The latter is probably the more accurate comparison.

We know that he became the second fastest bowler to take 50 wickets, the fastest to do so in 116 years, and that he took six five-wicket hauls in his first seven tests.

What we now know, in the wake of his crowning as South Africa's Cricketer of the Year, is that Philander's phenomenal success ranks above some fairly lofty batting statistics as well.

AB de Villiers was the only genuine challenger for Cricketer of the Year, even if Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla were also nominated.

De Villiers has had quite a year since taking the Proteas reins in limited overs. He has overseen the transition of the one-day side in the wake of another World Cup disaster, injecting some welcome innovation to prove that his lack of previous captaincy experience is no big issue.

He has also scored 716 runs in eight tests at an average of 65, and averaged an incredible 158 in eight ODIs. He scored those runs in some style as well, tearing up batting boundaries to display his raw sporting talent through an array of new shots. And he has done so whilst taking over the wicketkeeping gloves on a full-time basis.

Such a prolific cross-format performance would have won De Villiers the supreme award in most years, but Philander's test form has been so irrepressible that he was an obvious choice, even if he did play just a solitary one-day international. After all he was not just the best bowler in the world over the past 12 months, but he had the best year of any bowler ever.

Charlie Turner may have required just six tests to reach 50 wickets back in the 1880s, but they were plucked over the course of nearly two years. Philander's arrived in a deluge over just 139 days. And as CSA's acting chief executive Jacques Faul pointed out, wickets tended to be fairly unfriendly to batsmen in Turner's day.

One other thing worth remembering is that before the South African season began, few supporters expected Philander to get into the test squad, let alone romp to 50 wickets. This was more a reflection of how little attention is paid to the Supersport Series than of Philander's ability. The mere mention of his name would bring a roll of the eyes and some recollection of his awful first stint with the Proteas during 2007 and 2008.

Over the past year Philander has blown those preconceptions away so comprehensively that he was also voted the Fans' Cricketer of the Year by South African supporters. In the eyes of many he has gone from being a clown to being a hero. It is some turnaround.

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Philander blows away preconceptions

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