It’s time to back our boytjies

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Saeed_Ajmal

Reuters

The Titans have signed off-spinner Saeed Ajmal for the domestic Ram Slam T20 Challenge in January. Photo by: Dinuka Liyanawatte

Durban – The clamour for some of the biggest – and most expensive – Twenty20 international stars, ahead of our domestic hit and giggle swing, is obviously very exciting for the man in the stands – and each franchises’s financial department.

But you must wonder whether the news has been met with quite as much fanfare by the young players who will have to make way for stars who are often underwhelming.

More often than not, we tend to get it wrong with overseas players, who usually seem more interested in their hotel room and their phones than the fortunes of the team that has broken their back – and bank – to accommodate them.

Regular patrons at Kingsmead will never forget the year the Dolphins signed Sanath Jayasuriya, the Sri Lankan slugger. An entire campaign of failures followed, as Jayasuriya produced nothing like the exploits that he was known for.

But who dares drop an international star, even when they are woefully out of form? The Dolphins persisted with Jayasuriya that season, and even when Johann Louw’s trusty willow had snuck the Dolphins into a Super Over, the brains-trust felt that no one was better equipped to lead the Dolphins into the promised land.

Louw, who was hitting yorkers for six on that night, was left in the hut, despite being on a hot streak. The Dolphins never did win that game, just like Jayasuriya never did spark them in the manner that the suits would have hoped.

He went back to Colombo, pockets filled and tan improved, while the manne at Kingsmead were left to ponder what could have been. As we’ve come to grudgingly accept, we often don’t get it right when it comes to imports.

One wonders when our franchises will ever learn. The arrival of Ajmal and Narine at the Titans and the Cobras respectively are cases in point. Both franchises already have a buffet of international stars to call upon, especially since India left us in the international lurch.

But both sides also have two fine spinners, who have made massive strides this season. Shaun von Bergh, at Centurion, has won them games and given them a leg-spinning dimension in the middle overs. Likewise Dane Piedt, the Cobras’ left-arm tweaker.

I watched him operate at the Maritzburg Oval recently, as he hit the same, annoying length over and over again.

He reminded one of Claude Henderson, who bowled the Cobras to many a win in the shortest format of the game.

As soon as the press releases came out, both those players knew that the closest they would get to T20 action this season would be serving drinks to the stars.

This reliance on overseas players can create animosity in the ranks, especially when the star repeatedly fluffs his lines.

Can we really believe that Afridi will lose any sleep if the Knights fail to win a single game in the T20 campaign?

Gayle will honour his commitment to the Dolphins, but rest assured, when the last rites are read, he will look into the horizon, for the next payday.

For them, the campaign is already a success, because the money will be in the bank. For the franchises, it is a massive risk.

If it goes wrong, as it will for all but two of the five – the Warriors have neglected to spend – they will not only lose a hefty fee, but also lose another year of potential experience for a youngster in their own ranks.

Remember the Lions side that went on a glorious run in the Champions League? Quinton de Kock, Aaron Phangiso, Chris Morris and Hardus Viljoen all came through that side, and all will have worn national colours before the next World Cup.

It’s no coincidence. Instead of throwing hundreds of thousands at mercenaries who couldn’t care less about South African cricket’s tomorrow, it’s time our franchises looked closer to home for heroes.

As the Varsity Cup says, it’s time to back our boytjies.

Sunday Tribune


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