Matthew Breetzke credits Shukri Conrad for positive impact on his mental game.
The SA Emerging side travelled to Sri Lanka in July-August for a two-match unofficial Test series and three-match ODI series but had a difficult tour, writes KHALID MOHIDIN.
The side lost all three ODIs, one Test and drew the other.
The Emerging side faced a similar challenge encountered by the Proteas in Sri Lanka – reading the spin and adapting to the daunting conditions on the subcontinent. The one player who seemed to have benefited from the experience was 19-year-old Warriors opening batsman Breetzke, who had a brilliant tour. He scored runs consistently in both formats, scoring 73 in the first unofficial Test and being the batsman of the series in the ODIs after scoring 41, 97 and 42 in the three unofficial ODIs.
Breetzke showed character in trying conditions, but he never shied away from praising his coach for giving him the support he needed to improve his game.
‘A lot of the guys learned a lot from Shukri this winter. He is really honest and has a good mindset towards the game,’ Breetzke said exclusively to SA Cricket magazine.
‘He’s not too technical, it’s more about the mindset and how and where we are going to score our runs, which is what I really needed. He helped us with dealing with failure and has a lot of knowledge about the game. We found ourselves in situations where a lot of what he told us in Pretoria during the training camp happened in Sri Lanka.
‘He showed a lot of confidence in me and doesn’t worry too much about results but was more concerned about what I learned from the experience. He was more worried about what I was thinking about when I went out.
‘Cricket is a results game but you can’t only think about the results because you have to focus on the present before you can get to the desired result.’
Similarly to the Proteas, the Emerging players struggled against spin, with 31-year-old spinner Malinda Pushpakumara taking 12 wickets in the ‘Tests’ as the players new to the subcontinent conditions were put under the cosh.
‘Out of the whole team, I think only two had played before on the subcontinent, so a lot of us were not used to it, but we did try our best to prepare in the winter to play spin,’ Breetzke said. ‘What we learned was that it’s hard to come in and start to bat. If you get yourself in you have to carry on.
‘If you look at the Tests and the ODIs, we lost a lot of wickets in clusters, because when you come in, they make things very hard for you by placing men around the bat. We discovered that it’s not the one that turns that gets you out, it’s the one that goes straight on that poses the greatest threat.’
Breetzke realised that he had to adapt his game to survive the trial by spin and, from a learning point of view, it was a massive success.
‘My mindset was to be possessive but also to bat through the innings. Usually, in South Africa, I try to go quite hard and strike at over 100, but in Sri Lanka, it was tough because I usually found myself batting when there were a lot of wickets falling around me,’ he added.
‘I had to bat through and anchor the innings, which was an unusual way for me to bat, but I feel it grew my game quite a lot. Batting right through in that second ODI gave me a lot of confidence in that I can work the ball and rotate the strike.
‘It was a very good learning experience and I added a whole new dimension to my game. I knew it was always there but I never had the chance to do it. I was always the one to try go hard up front and get the game moving.’
Photo: Hagen Hopkins-IDI/IDI via Getty Images