Farhaan Behardien has endured a great deal of criticism as the South African ODI side has struggled of late, but the batsman does not want to be shielded from the travails of the middle order and is instead relishing the challenge ahead of a busy period for the Proteas 50-over side.
Last season he averaged a respectable 34 batting almost entirely at numbers six and seven, scoring at a strike-rate of 85.45, but he is still wanting more consistency from himself.
“I’m always working on my game because batting in the middle-order is pretty hard, at five, six and seven the pressure is always there. The key is consistency because there’s heavy competition for those places between AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, David Miller, myself, Wayne Parnell and Chris Morris – that’s a lot of competition.
“But I’m feeling really good at the moment, I played in the Northerns T20 Bash and in the eKasi Challenge and got some runs. I had a good run against New Zealand here last year and against India over there, but it’s a tough job and consistency will be my key. I have let myself down on a few occasions, but I’m looking to repay the faith of the selectors who have afforded me with another opportunity to play,” Behardien said on Thursday at the launch of the Momentum One-Day International Series in Centurion.
It will come as little surprise that Behardien has been working closely with new Multiply Titans coach Mark Boucher, a pugnacious middle-order wicketkeeper/batsman for South Africa in 295 ODIs and someone who had a great record when it came to winning games with the lower-order. Their roles for the Proteas are similar.
“I’ve been training very hard with Mark and he’s adding something different. He’s challenged me personally, which is great coming from someone who batted over 200 times in the middle-order, and we’ve spoken a lot about the thoughts you have out in the middle and your game plans.
“So Mark has been unbelievable since he started on September 1 and the guys have really warmed up to him. He’s challenging us on our skills and mental approach and he has a big focus on producing tough cricketers. It’s about how you approach the game, he’s taken us out of our comfort zones a bit. But he holds that respect,” Behardien said.
The 32-year-old said that from the Proteas team point of view, their goal this summer in ODI cricket was to climb back towards the top of the rankings, improving on their current fourth place.
“We want to beat Australia on our home ground, but they are the world champions so beating them in a five-match series will be no easy feat. But doing it would set the summer up beautifully.
“The Test side have done their part in turning things around and now we want to keep that momentum. We want to land the first punch, which would go a long way to getting that winning confidence with the series against Sri Lanka coming up and then New Zealand again at the end of the season. If we do really well in those three series, then we could be number one or two and be really strong contenders for the Champions Trophy in England next year,” Behardien said.
That, of course, is looking a long way ahead and, for now, South Africa have their eyes on their next hurdle – the one-off ODI against Ireland in Benoni on Sunday.
“We’re expecting quite a tough game. Playing for Leicestershire in the winter, I played with the O’Brien brothers – Kevin and Niall – so I know what they have to offer. Ireland also have a very good left-arm orthodox spinner in George Dockrell. They’ve all been playing in county cricket so they get plenty of exposure that way.
“So we can’t take them lightly, we’re playing an international for our country and we want to come out full guns blazing. Hopefully our synergy will also be there,” Behardien said.