LESS than 12 months ago, Lonwabo Tsotsobe was the king of his castle. He was a globetrotter with the Proteas, the unmistakeable fashionista in the team, and, more importantly, sat atop the world rankings in one-day cricket.
The huge shadow of Makhaya Ntini that hovered over Tsotsobe for so long was also gone. He was now his own man, and could decide that he no longer wanted to play his domestic cricket in the Eastern Cape, and instead relocate to Durban to join the Dolphins.
Life, though, further up to the coast has not been kind as yet to the 28-year-old swing bowler. Despite the change of scenery, Tsotsobe has suddenly become the forgotten man of South African cricket.
Tsotsobe is no longer part of the Proteas Test squad, having lost his back-up place to Rory Kleinveldt, who went wicketless in his debut Test. He also unforgivably saw no action in the ICC World Twenty20 back in August. His variations have always been perfectly suited to the sub-continent.
It’s been a dramatic fall from grace for the lanky left-armer, but Tsotsobe is taking it all in his stride.
He is only concentrating on putting in good performances at the Dolphins, and hopes to continue at Newlands tonight against the Cape Cobras in a crucial 1-Day Cup fixture for both teams.
“I’m here to enjoy my cricket, just giving it my all to perform 100 percent for the Dolphins,” he told the Cape Times yesterday. “Of course I want to play for South Africa, but I’m playing for the Dolphins now, and that is where my focus is right now.”
Cobras opener Richard Levi is not quite as forgotten as Tsotsobe, but he is certainly out of the national selectors’ thoughts right now. Levi is another young Protea who set the world alight at the beginning of the year, only to drop away through some indifferent performances.
It’s been interesting to note, though, that Levi has rediscovered his bludgeoning touch, smashing half-centuries in his last two 1-Day Cup matches.
A feature of both innings has been Levi’s ability to strike the ball straight down the ground again – a sure sign that his balance is good, which translates into good form. There’s little doubt that the clash between Tsotsobe and Levi in the powerplay overs will have a major impact on tonight’s result.
“I am actually really happy for Richie that he’s come through and got some runs again,” Tsotsobe said.
“He’s endured some really tough times, and to see him striking the ball so sweetly again is good for the game.”
But is Tsotsobe not wary that “the Leviathan” may strike in full force tonight at Newlands?
“I don’t think bowling to Richie is any different than to any other batsman in fact,” he said with a smile. “It’s all about keeping things simple and sticking to what has worked for you in the past. For me, that is my variations, trying to hit the top of off-stump and the odd bouncer,” he chirped.
“Okay ... maybe to Richie, I would say the key is to remain patient. He is a naturally attacking batsman, so you want him to come to you and make the play, instead of the other way around. Yeah, let him come to you I would say is important.”
Cobras coach Paul Adams is still sweating on Justin Ontong’s fitness, although he expects the skipper to be at the coin toss later today. Young quickie Lizaad Williams is also expected to get another opportunity.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are likely to field the same side who failed to get out on the park on Wednesday night due to rain at Kingsmead. It was the Dolphins’ second abandoned 1-Day Cup match.