ANT Botha intends to emerge from winter a potential match-winner for Warwickshire – in all forms of cricket.
The former Derbyshire left-arm spinner is backing the input of Bears director of cricket Ashley Giles to help him become a force in the county game.
Botha’s bowling was impressive in one-day cricket last season – particularly Twenty20 where the mean, mid-innings overs of he and fellow slow-bowler Ian Salisbury were pivotal to qualification for the quarter-finals.
But it was a different story in the championship. While Salisbury flourished, Botha took just 14 wickets at 48.29 apiece, did not manage a five-wicket haul and generally struggled to defeat batsmen under no pressure to attack him.
There is plenty to work on then. And the 32-year-old reckons he has just the right mentor in director of cricket Giles, himself a left-armer who did not turn the ball miles so had to hatch other ways to take wickets.
“Gilo is a massive help,” Botha said. “He has said we are similar cricketers who bowl similarly and it is a fantastic help to me because we are also similar characters.
“He understands me and takes a lot of pressure off because he knows you can’t expect to be a match-winner every game. You can end up being really hard on yourself which has been a weakness of mine in the past.
“But we are working on one or two things this winter and hopefully will add 10 to 15 per cent to my bowling for next season. I think I have improved a lot over the last two years and have more improvement in me.
“That is my aim, to keep improving and become the finished article which I am not at the moment.
“In one-day cricket, I know my role well but think I can become more of a match-winner with bat and ball. That is my next goal. I want to nail my game so that I become a match-winner in all forms of the game.”
Botha contributed usefully with the bat at times in the lower middle order last season – and was a big asset in the field, taking 30 catches in all competitions. But he knows he needs to deliver more wickets to make himself less vulnerable to omission from the team.
“I got a little bit frustrated later on last season, to be perfectly honest,” he said. “We had a lot of rain and didn’t really have turning wickets where Ian and I could really nail down a session. During the season our seamers bowled beautifully and, the way games went, spinners couldn’t get on in the second innings and bowl a lot of overs.
“It was disappointing for me to miss out out on games late in the season. I got injured against Derbyshire and after that the team played really well.
“But finger-spinners in today’s game don’t have it too easy. The wickets are not helpful. There is not the same zip out of them and I am finding it quite hard as the seasons go on to extract a lot out of them.
“So you have to combat that and there are certain things you can do. I think I have that in me but the next step is to make sure I do it consistently.
“What can happen is you get too aggressive and try to turn the ball too much and your consistency can go. You have to strike the balance of knowing when your teams needs you to be tight and when to attack and really try to take wickets.
“One of the keys to success is knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your limitations but trying to improve. To be honest, I am still working that out.
“I only really started to understand my bowling two years ago. There are areas to improve, for sure, but I think I added some value to the team and I know I have the backing of Gilo and A.D. which is a massive confidence-booster.”