Duanne Olivier is determined to do himself and his country proud whenever he gets the opportunity.
How well have you negotiated the move between franchise and Test cricket?
It’s a massive step up. With the games on television and sometimes millions of people watching, that can really make you think. You want to impress upon everyone that you belong where you are. At franchise level, though, not many people come to watch – and a lot don’t follow the game. Playing for the Proteas is a massive honour – and it’s something I want to do justice to. Playing for your country doesn’t happen often and I have to make the most of those chances. Whenever and wherever I play, for whatever team, I want to do the best for my teammates and myself. The Knights, Proteas, whoever … that team must benefit from the impact I can bring. That must apply in all three formats.
While Marchant de Lange and Kyle Abbott burst on to the international stage with seven-fors against Sri Lanka and Pakistan respectively, your arrival has been more along the lines of ‘slow and steady wins the race’.
When you start playing Test match cricket, you obviously want to take as many wickets as possible. I’ve had a few challenges around absorbing pressure – and coming out on the other end strongly. I want to be consistent as a person and as a cricketer. I look up to guys like Marchant. Playing with him at franchise level has been great and I have learned a lot from him. Bowling techniques are different for each of us, but we feed off each other and make each other better. Yes, they have signed Kolpak deals, but my focus is on playing for my country for as long as possible.
Charl Langeveldt was the bowling coach when you joined the Proteas. That role has since been handed to head coach Ottis Gibson. Are you comfortable with this arrangement?
I worked on my action a bit with Charl. Now Ottis is helping me with it too. We are working on game plans and what will work for me. The main thing is to enjoy it, have fun and be aggressive. Ottis is nice and relaxed. You know exactly what he wants from you. At the end of the day, I want to enjoy and embrace working with him. His personality is quite chilled, so he combines well with Faf du Plessis. They make a good combination, which makes the rest of the squad gel well.
What is your opinion on the following statement by former Proteas batsman and current Cape Cobras coach Ashwell Prince? ‘At some stage you have to wonder what impact T20 cricket is having on a bowler’s ability to bowl a long spell and set a batsman up. Bowling four overs against guys who are teeing off from the word ‘go’ definitely plays on a bowler’s patience. That stays with them across all formats and causes them to search for wickets.’
Prince is right. T20 cricket is definitely a game for the batsmen. As a bowler, you are under the pump all the time. You try to bring something different, to get the better of the batsmen. This works sometimes, but other times it doesn’t. You might not be taking wickets, you might be doing a good thing in controlling the run rate, going at just six an over. One has to find the balance between picking up wickets and not going for too many runs in any format. When the guys are teeing off, though, it can be really tough.
You’ve stated that you prefer bowling with the older ball. Do you have an aversion to the new one?
I feel I can run in harder and hit the wicket a bit harder with the older ball. The challenge is greater than bowling with a new ball, too, as the ball isn’t swinging as much. I want to make a difference with the older ball. I like bowling longer spells, even towards the end of the day’s play. Finding reverse swing can be a bonus, particularly if it’s for an extended period. A lot of bowlers get it right for short bursts, but I’d like to see it happen for longer periods from me. It’s a great way to put your team on top if you are battling for wickets in flat conditions.
Having bowled to textbook and conservative Test batsmen like Alastair Cook in England, you’ll soon encounter the flamboyant and aggressive Virat Kohli of India, the unorthodox Steven Smith of Australia and others. Will your approach change accordingly?
If I do play in those series, I will obviously assess each player before the matches. I’ll look to keep it as simple as possible, hitting the right lengths consistently. I want to bowl well against the world’s best players. Smith, Kohli and guys like that are really, really good – and I’d like to be able to nip them out for my country.
‘Workload management’ is a popular buzzword in international cricket, particularly among fast bowlers. What are your expectations of how you are managed, and how do you manage yourself?
Greg King is important in managing our workloads. If you’ve bowled a lot of balls at practice, you might not do so in the match. If you’ve done a lot of bowling in matches, you can take it a bit easier at practice. I like to bowl a lot. I don’t mind it if my workload is high, as long as my impact is also high. I obviously don’t want to get injured, but I need to bowl a lot to stay in my rhythm.
South Africa’s premier first-class competition, the Sunfoil Series, has yielded far too many draws this season. Only one of the opening dozen fixtures produced a result. As last season’s leading wicket-taker, do you agree this isn’t good for the game?
If you look at back at last season, the wickets were more friendly for the bowlers. This year, however, the wickets are a lot flatter. That’s a good thing for the batsmen, but I still think it’s a great challenge for the bowlers. It forces them to try to take wickets in a different manner than they might have done before. Yes, it takes a bit longer to get a wicket, but in the context of the first-class game, I think it is good. Obviously, fans and coaches want to see results, but all the draws effectively keep every team in the race regardless.
Would you prefer to see more competitive pitches, or are veritable highways the way to go?
The challenge is always there, on a flat wicket or a spicy wicket. There is pressure on the bowlers either way because you are expected to take wickets no matter what. I love trying to find that something extra special, to put the team in a good or better position. I’m happy to bowl on flat wickets. I want to keep pushing myself to do well on flat wickets.
There are some who are alarmed by the lack of depth in the South African A ranks. Do you agree with them?
There is enough depth. South Africa A side didn’t have a great tour of England, but we did well at home against India and Afghanistan. The guys are doing well, but perhaps not well enough. There has to be more consistency. They need to be doing what they do well for their franchises at South African A level. The results will then follow, for the team and for the individuals.
Interview by Johnhenry Wilson