SA Cricket magazine editor RYAN VREDE wonders out loud about whether George Linde knows he has the same base-talent level as some of South Africa’s great all-rounders.
No, not Jacques Kallis. Kallis was a freak. Next.
However, having watched Linde closely for the last two years, and having had my thinking around this stimulated by an impossibly brilliant knock for the Cobras on Monday, I’m convinced that he has the same base-talent level as Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener.
The problem is, I’m just not convinced he knows this.
This is different to him being as consistently potent as the aforementioned duo, and clearly he has not exhibited his extraordinary gifts to the same extent just yet. But I’d argue that there is little to no difference in their foundational ability – the place where they start from.
However, talent has to be accompanied by temperament to build a career marked by the types of feats Pollock and Klusener built their legacy on. This is the point of interest with Linde. He is in the infancy of his international career and time will tell whether he has the requisite temperament, a quality that lights the fire under his talent. As a start, he needs to realise just how deeply gifted he actually is.
He grew up idolising established pros at the Cobras such as Justin Kemp, Andrew Puttick and Justin Ontong. Those men played domestic cricket well into their 30s, and as a result Linde would have to wait until his late 20s (he is 29 years old) to establish himself in the side.
Linde was happy to wait, content that he was earning a living from cricket. A more astute coach (there were a couple throughout the period in question) would have identified Linde as having talent that was, at worst, on par with those players at that early stage of his pro career.
Linde, though, should have been more ambitious. He wasn’t, and I suspect it is because he didn’t have a clear sense of just how good he was at that point, or how good he could become.
I’d argue that this realisation is starting to dawn on him. There are a handful of positives to come from the recently concluded Pakistan tour. Most importantly, it gave Linde the opportunity to shake the impostor syndrome that has plagued him throughout his career.
He realised that his talent equipped him to do more than survive. He didn’t excel, but he certainly wasn’t exposed as an impostor in elevated company.
There are countless examples of similarly talented players like Linde who don’t realise the fullness of their potential for a myriad reasons, chief among those are mental failings sparked by periods of inconsistency. Pollock and Klusener pushed through those because they were mental giants. Their talent soared because their minds were granitic.
These is what we should watch for in Linde. It will determine his career’s trajectory.
My understanding, based on conversations with people who know how he is wired mentally, is that his talent needs to be constantly affirmed. This wasn’t the case with Pollock or Klusener, but it doesn’t delegitimise Linde’s case.
There have been countless world-class talents who’ve needed a significant investment from coaches who were required to exhibit truckloads of EQ in order to get the best out of them.
Linde is worth this investment and Proteas coach Mark Boucher needs to embrace this task.
Ultimately, though, Linde is in control of his own professional destiny. He has to want to touch the ceiling of his potential. First he has to realise just how high that ceiling is.