Cape Town – There is a great sense of excitement in the build-up to every World Cup. Not only at international level, but also lower down domestically.
Suddenly the interest levels rise, the expectations are higher and performances are magnified. With just under 16 months to cricket’s 50-over jamboree, local players know that a phenomenal run with bat or ball in this season’s 1-Day Cup, starting on Friday night at Centurion, could result in convincing Andrew Hudson and his selection panel to find a place for them in that elite 15-man touring party to Australia and New Zealand.
One player, if he is available, who is a certainty within that squad is the evergreen Jacques Kallis. The 2015 World Cup will undoubtedly be Kallis’s swansong, though, and South Africa will be left with a gaping hole to fill in two crucial departments.
Ryan McLaren has done an able job, especially with the ball, since filling the all-rounder’s spot while Kallis has enjoyed an ODI sabbatical over the past two years. Wayne Parnell also seems refreshed since recovering from various long-term injuries and illness and is young and talented enough to stake a long-term claim.
However, like Ali Bacher’s recent book stated, South Africa have always had a bevy of quality all-rounders at their disposal. So we take a closer look at some of the fillies on the domestic scene who will be hoping to make a big impact and get their names on everybody’s lips during the 1-Day Cup.
Dwaine Pretorius (24)
A former South African Under-19 international, Pretorius has been a bit of a revelation for the Lions, especially in the shortest format of the game. A veteran of two Champions League T20 campaigns, the Randfontein all-rounder will be looking to replicate his T20 form in 50-overs cricket with the joint-defending champions.
“Dwaine has given glimpses of his potential already, but we are expecting much more from him this season. He was in India with the guys and that experience of playing in front of big crowds consistently will surely help him in dealing with the pressure of big games that we hope to be involved in come the business-end of the season,” Lions captain Stephen Cook said.
“We’ve seen already that he has the ability to clear the boundary with ease, but it’s his bowling that he has done the most work on during the off-season. He identified that as a part of his game that he wanted to improve and really put in some hard graft with our bowling coach Gordon Parsons in the winter. He has all the right attributes to go really far.”
What to look out for: Elevated drives over extra cover.
Ayabulela Gqamane (24)
If ever the cliché of dynamite coming in small packages was to be attached to any player, it has to be Gqamane. Only just over 5ft tall, Gqamane certainly packs a big heart in that little frame of his. The undoubted find of the 2012-13 domestic season, the King William’s Town warrior will be looking to show he is no one-season wonder.
“Aya has such a spark, an incredible cricketer,” Warriors captain Davy Jacobs enthused. “He came into our side last season and just made an immediate impact. He has so much energy that when you throw him the ball, you just know something is going to happen.
“He is a short guy, but don’t let that fool you. He gets it at you at over 140 clicks (km/h), and as a batsman you will always feel rushed because of his lack of height. I mean he was clocked at 147 in one game last season. He also has all the skills, can reverse it, has a slower ball ... he is the full package. Best of all I don’t think we have seen the best of him yet with the bat.”
What to look out for: A rapid bouncer!
Shaheen Khan (26)
A bit of a late bloomer, Khan has benefited from two seasons up in Gauteng where he worked tirelessly on his game to earn a return to his home city. Tall, athletic and muscular, Khan is a perfect athlete who will surely add great dynamism in the field to an ageing XI. He might not be a regular starter immediately due to the intense competition for places at the Cobras, but expect him to showcase his power-hitting ability when the opportunity does arise.
“We really like what we have seen in Shaheen during pre-season. We brought him back from the Lions because we really believe he can fill a void here at the Cobras now that Vernon (Philander) and Rory (Kleinveldt) are with the Proteas. He is such a strong guy and already showed during the weekend’s games with Province that he can hit a very long ball consistently,” Cobras captain Justin Ontong said.
“He might have to be a little patient for some gametime, but he is a big part of our plans going forward and if he continues to hit 77 off just 44 balls in matches, it’s going to be hard to ignore him. A little bit of work on his bowling and he will be right up there.”
What to look out for: The extension of those long arms to clear the ball over the fence.
Calvin Savage (20)
The youngest of the group, Savage is fresh from SA Under-19 international duty after graduating from that excellent cricket school in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, Maritzburg College – the alma mater of none other than England superstar Kevin Pietersen.
At this fledgling stage of his career, Savage’s fast-medium bowling is his stronger suit, although he has shown, especially at a level below, that his batting has the potential to develop with the right amount of application.
“I have only joined the Dolphins during the winter, but there are certainly expectations here in KZN of Calvin to go on and achieve big things,” captain Morné van Wyk said. “He cannot ask for a better coach in Zulu (Lance Klusener) to learn from in terms of being an all-rounder, and I am willing to go on record saying those who don’t know Calvin Savage now will surely know him at the end of this season.”
What to look out for: A fast out-swinger.
Graeme van Buuren (23)
The “Light Blues” have an abundance of quality all-rounders in the form of wicketkeeper batsmen Heino Kuhn and Mangaliso Mosehle as well as David Wiese, Roelof van der Merwe and Albie Morkel, with Farhaan Behardien added for good measure. So, if the Titans management are looking at youngster Van Buuren, there must be something special about him.
“This is going to be Graeme’s breakout season,” Titans captain Henry Davids said. “He has worked incredibly hard on his batting during the off-season and working with our new coach Rob Walter, there is already an improvement in his bowling.”
What to look out for: Rapid running between the wickets.
Obus Pienaar (23)
Much was expected of the hard-hitting Pienaar when he burst on to the domestic scene two years ago, but he has since dropped down the queue due to his preference to focus solely on his batting. However, now that he has indicated that he aims to put on those bowling boots again, it could just be the spark that ignites the young Free Stater’s career again.
What to look out for: Straight hitting down the ground.