Despite Cricket South Africa’s best attempts at publicity, the South African One Day Cup hasn’t quite grabbed the headlines or the public’s imagination. It’s a pity, since the quality of cricket and talent on show has been superb. The final is on Friday – the perfect chance to get the best of the best for those who have missed out. By ANT SIMS.
Ask any average South African if they know who is playing in the One Day Cup final taking place at the Wanderers on Friday, and it’s unlikely that many will be able to tell you. In fact, it’s more likely that most won’t even be aware of the final between the Lions and Cape Cobras taking place, despite Cricket South Africa’s best efforts to drum out publicity for what should be a seriously enticing competition.
Cricket never has been and probably never will be South Africa’s first choice sport, but it doesn’t mean the domestic competitions – even if they aren’t being watched by many – don’t form an integral part of the cricket make-up of the country.
The Proteas’ limited overs captain, AB de Villiers, echoed the disappointment of other players after the Titans’ semi-final against the Cobras on Sunday. The crowd was sparse, despite tickets being sold at dirt cheap prices. De Villiers scored a magnificent hundred in that match – one he had to put in the hard yards for being up against the likes of Dale Steyn, Rory Kleinveldt and Robin Peterson.
“To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with the crowd at Newlands. I was expecting something bigger. I thought the cricket was really good. It was one of the better 100s I’ve scored against a good pace attack. I had to work hard. The standard of cricket was really good. Our cricket is in a healthy spot,” said De Villiers.
While cricket has done everything to get more eyeballs on the screen – from scantily clad cheerleaders in the IPL to flashing bails in Australia’s T20 set-up, and even a completely different approach to the way the one-day game is played – South Africa has stuck with a more traditional approach and for De Villiers, this is the best way to improve his international game.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we have the right thinking going in keeping the domestic competition as it is. I want to play my domestic cricket the way I play my international cricket. The rules change all the time; you have to adapt all the time. When I was in the field, I actually had to ask my team-mates and make sure of the rules again. It’s confusing at times.
“Nonetheless, I believe it’s great that we play the format like it would be when the guys move onto international competition,” said De Villiers.
Despite the challenge for the international stars to improve their game, the prying eyes of selectors, the sponsorship money or the clichéd quotes drummed out in press conferences in the build-up, the domestic one-day final is as big as it gets for some players and it offers a chance for the South African public to get a sneak peek at the wealth of talent which could grace the Protea jersey in the coming years.
Cobras captain Justin Ontong, who has played for the Proteas before, called the clash a “mini World Cup” and while that statement might sound somewhat clichéd, for veteran domestic stars and even for those youngsters whose stars might fade as their careers progress, it’s true.
For the cricket-loving public, though, a domestic final between two of the country’s best sides offers the chance to see those players who might one day feature in those World Cups. The quality of cricket on show in the domestic competition has been good and to deny players a chance in the spotlight would foolish and selfish.
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN THE ONE DAY CUP FINAL
Stiaan van Zyl hasn’t had quite had the most consistent season, but he is an immensely talented player. He has a straight drive that would make you weep and the maturity of somebody who has been playing for years and while the shorter format of the game is perhaps a waste of his elegance, van Zyl exudes class whenever he picks up a bat.
Quinton de Kock, meanwhile, has been tipped to be the man who eventually succeeds Mark Boucher behind the stumps. De Kock is one of the most naturally gifted players on the domestic circuit, and his explosive approach without being an “ugly slogger” has earned him a reputation as one of the most destructive players on the scene. Better yet, he’s only 19 years old.
Yaseen Vallie is another player who has impressed for the Cobras this season. He has grown as a player as the tournament has progressed, and his partnership with Ontong in the semi-final was crucial to help the home side get over the line.
Aaron Phangiso, albeit a bit older, has had quite the season. Those who followed the T20 Champions League will remember Phangiso as the guy who bowled Tendulker and seemingly appeared from nowhere to leave opponents in a spin. At 28 years old, he might no longer be considered a spring chicken, but he is somebody who might find his way into the Proteas’ T20 side for the summer.
The fact that there is such a vast pool of talent seemingly going unnoticed is perhaps not a bad problem to have. Competition for places in the national side feeds the desire to perform, and with a whole summer ahead where rookies have the chance to make the step up, that desire will be burning strongly for many players. DM
Photo by Reuters
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