WATCHING Stiaan van Zyl play a cover drive is similiar to an art lover admiring a painting. It is a picture of beauty, with the languid lunge forward followed by the full face of the willow sweetly meeting the over-pitched ball.
It is a sight that has been commonplace at the Cape Cobras since Van Zyl debuted six years ago. Just 19 at the time, and from the rugby-crazed Boland Landbou institution, the baby-faced left-hander was a breath of fresh air.
Now 25 years of age, Van Zyl feels he is ready for the next step in his career. The time is ripe for him to accelerate his growth process, and he knows this can only be achieved through big performances in the Sunfoil Series, starting today against the Titans at Newlands.
“Yeah hey .... I have been around for a while now. I was just a teenager when I started, but I now feel that I’ve put together a couple of good seasons.
“It’s really exciting that the national selectors have started to look at younger players for the Proteas, and this really gives a guy motivation to do well and score big runs. Anybody can get injured like we’ve seen, and then you must be first in the queue,” Van Zyl told the Cape Times yesterday.
There’s no doubt the Proteas brainstrust have cast their net wider over the last few months, and have begun to reward players who perform consistently at domestic level.
There have been wholesale changes to the Twenty20 squad, with a quartet of uncapped players chosen for the three-match series against New Zealand starting tomorrow.
At Test level, batsmen Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar and pace bowler Rory Kleinveldt all made their debuts on the recent Australian tour. The trio followed Vernon Philander, Imran Tahir and Marchant de Lange who have been handed Test caps over the past 12 months.
“I try not to concentrate too much on other guys being picked ahead of me,” Van Zyl added. “Of course, sometimes when a guy gets selected, you think too yourself: ‘but didn’t I score more runs than him?’. It is, though, not an issue to me because I’m willing to bide my time, work hard, and know that I need to score the big runs when it matters here at the Cobras and the rest will take of itself.”
A certain sign of how the times have changed for Van Zyl at the Cobras is that he is no longer the rookie batsman in the line-up. Instead, he is viewed as one of the seniors, and will be expected to guide an inexperienced middle-order that will contain Yaseen Vallie and Qaasim Adams. It will only be Adams’s second game for the Cobras.
Fortunately for the home side, the defending champions will be without strike-bowler Ethy Mbhalati after the lanky paceman failed a fitness test on Tuesday.
He has been replaced by Tumi Masekela, who will not have fond memories of Newlands after he suffered a pasting from the Cobras batsmen in his last outing here.
“It doesn’t matter who the Titans have in their side, they are always a competitive outfit. There’s a great rivalry between the two sides. We love beating them, and they love beating us. It is almost like WP teen die Bulle,” Van Zyl added.
Andrew Puttick, Alistair Gray, Stiaan van Zyl, Yaseen Vallie, Qaasim Adams, Dane Vilas (wk, capt), Justin Kemp, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Johann Louw, Beuran Hendricks. 12th man: Siya Simetu.